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Tuesday May 23, 2017
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Rennie Harris Puremovement



Once Mekka begins, you notice another crucial departure from Harris's earlier work: nearly half of the dancers are female. In one early section, the focus shifts entirely to the five women. In a manner reminiscent of a ceremonial water dance, wavy arms and fluid t'ai-chi accentuations give way to staccato head snaps and swivel turns. Later, in a heart-stopping evolutionary solo, a dancer emerges from the ground, as from a chrysalis. Accompanied by amplified breaths and creaks, she learns to crawl — one leg through the other — and eventually to stand. Finally she assumes the pose, arms crossed with attitude in a low crouch: a break-dancer is born.

In an extended coda dubbed Lorenzo's Oil — Harris's given name is Lorenzo — Harris brilliantly melds a decelerated version of hip-hop popping with Japanese butoh, an often painfully slow, expressionistic form of modern dance forged in the wake of World War II.

In his director's note to Rome & Jewels, Harris writes, "I am tired of understanding everything I watch. I want to be challenged. . . . My last words to you are, don't worry about whether you like it or not. Just have the experience, absorb it, and move on. . . . And when in doubt, try to imagine what silence looks like."

The University Musical Society presents Facing Mekka Friday and Saturday, February 11 and 12, at the Power Center.    (end of article)

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