Rennie Harris Puremovement
Just past forty, Harris is a force field in hip-hop culture. Early on, he toured with superstars Run-DMC and Whodini, among others, and in the last few years, in his hometown of Philadelphia, he has annually produced Illadelph Legends, an outrageously thrilling showcase of break-dance pioneers and virtuosic youngsters in good-humored competition. In 1992 Harris founded his Rennie Harris Puremovement in order to expand hip-hop's range and meaning beyond the commercial stereotypes.
Harris made a name for himself by theatricalizing hip-hop with such works as the harrowing chase solo Endangered Species (1992) and Rome & Jewels (2000) an ambitious adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, performed in Ann Arbor in 2002. He broadened his artistic portfolio further with Facing Mekka, and made his career.
Like Rome & Jewels, Facing Mekka (2003) is an evening-length piece incorporating live music and dance. Unlike Rome & Jewels, though, Mekka avoids straight narrative. Meaning is oblique references are shaded and fused. The onstage band including a DJ, vocalists, a percussion section, and a cellist performs overlapping rhythms and evocative sonorities from around the globe, with special emphasis on Africa and Asia. The movement style is equally encompassing.