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    The Wondertwins make hip-hop dance their own

    Bobby and Billy McClain have performed hip-hop dance for 30 years as the Wondertwins.
    Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/File 2011
    Bobby and Billy McClain have performed hip-hop dance for 30 years as the Wondertwins.

    Identical twins Bobby and Billy McClain began their dance careers in their childhood living room in Boston. They studied the movements of Bugs Bunny, the music of Michael Jackson, and the grace of the Nicholas Brothers and began to develop their own style of dance. The two had no formal training when they joined the Funk Affects, a professional street-dance crew, at age 10.

    They went on to work with everyone from Bobby Brown to New Kids on the Block and Maurice Hines. And after 30 years performing worldwide as the Wondertwins, the award-winning duo present “To Hip-Hop, With Love” this weekend at the Dance Complex in Cambridge, a flashy show that incorporates everything from Broadway music to spoken-word poetry.

    Q. How would you describe your style?


    Bobby McClain. It’s mime, it’s theater, it’s Broadway, it’s robotics, it’s hip-hop, it’s everything combined. We look at it almost like it’s a 3-D movie. It’s everything that we watch, every artist that we see — we combine all that inspiration into our show.

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    Q. How did you two get started dancing?

    Billy McClain. We used to watch “Soul Train.” That was one of the shows we watched every single weekend and basically emulated what they were doing. Not really the dance style, but just the love of the music. We were doing shows around the house for our parents and our cousins and uncles when we were little. We would change, put on our bowties and our suspenders, put a whole big production on right in the living room.

    Q. What are you trying to communicate with “To Hip-Hop, With Love”?

    Billy. We’re trying to show that hip-hop dancing and hip-hop music belongs in the same category as the great pop songs and the great jazz traditions. Hip-hop dance is equally as important as ballet and tap. Our show is really positive. There’s not cursing and swearing; we don’t believe in that in our music.


    [“Broadway to Hip-Hop”] is two men reminiscing of how it used to be when they performed on Broadway. But they’re two men from the inner city who got a chance to finally perform on Broadway, so it wasn’t just about them doing Broadway musical songs, it was about them bringing popular hip-hop songs inside of a Broadway show.

    “Sounds of Movement” is almost like a scientist working on two people, who has all these different sounds and these different favorite movie themes and favorite commercials in his head, and he programs it to these two individuals for them to show it. Almost like how they created Frankenstein.

    The final piece is called “L.O.V.E.,” which stands for “letting our visions evolve.” It’s really about feelings. In hip-hop dance, I think the feeling that is showed the most is aggression and toughness and not really love. This pays homage to that part of hip-hop that expresses love and feeling. There’s a lot of poetry involved. We have Maya Angelou; it’s a lot of spoken word.

    Q. Tell us about the music selected for this show.

    Billy. We probably have 100 songs and sound bites combined. Our songs go from Barry Manilow to Lil Wayne. . . . Our audience range goes from little children to seasoned, gray-haired men and women, so we want to include everyone in our show.


    Q. What kind of costumes do you wear?

    Billy. Sequins. We wear a lot of shine. Our clothes are definitely very important in what we do, and not just because we love wearing flashy clothes, but it also reminds us of the people that we loved growing up — the Nicholas Brothers and all these people who were so elegant in their attire and what they did back then, we want to represent it now.

    Q. What does it mean to you two to be performing in your home area?

    Billy. From Dorchester, we’ve been very fortunate to travel the entire globe. We don’t get a chance to perform here as much as we think we should. What we do, and I don’t mean it in an arrogant way, is just as important as “Swan Lake.” What we do for hip-hop dance is majorly important, and it’s not just about form, it’s about what we represent. We’re showing the clean side of hip-hop, so I think what we’re doing needs to be supported more, in Boston especially because we’re from Boston. There’s other places that I think hip-hop should be at, and I think the people that should be showing it is the Wondertwins.


    Performed by the Wondertwins. At the Dance Complex, Cambridge, Oct. 14-15. Tickets: $22, or $18 for Boston Dance Alliance members. 617-547-9363,

    Reena Karasin can be reached at