BWW Review: RENNIE HARRIS' PUREMOVEMENT... FUNKEDIFIED FUNKIFICATION! at The Ford Theatre
One heck of a blast was had at "RENNIE HARRIS FUNKEDIFIED," a funk-filled celebration of breakers, lockers, poppers, and kick-ass musicians doin' their thing, outside at the Ford Theatre, under the moonlight on a gorgeous summer eve up against the hills of Hollywood as the backdrop.
This particular performance was also a Benefit Fundraiser for the Ford Theatre Foundation,
and is part of the IGNITE @ THE FORD series, bringing contemporary artists whose work is thought-provoking and reflective of today's world to L A Theatre goers.
What an energized evening! The Director/Choreographer/Writer/Creator Lorenzo Rennie Harris assembled a fantastic group of stylized entertainers, from the incredible RHF Band: Dave Levy, trumpet, Osei Kweku, Bass, Nicholas Marks, piano and Samir Zarif, saxophone, The Versa-Style Dance Company and so many other guest artists, to give an all-out visual motif of the '70s and all the funk and fantasticness it produced.
In the audience and recognized by Rennie as his inspirer, he introduced Don Campbell, from "Soul Train" and "The Campbell Lock Dancers" fame. Others there were Sugar Pop and Electric Boogaloo peeps.
Whenever I, as a participant in the '70s, think of this genre of Dance, I think of Shabba-Doo, The Lockers and Toni Basil ~ they had the talent and the know-how at the time to make what they created seen and heard. Nice to see their efforts are being realized and growing in significance.
Each performance on the program was put into movement by the performers moving in slo-mo to others's positions, sometimes freezing in position, with no particular rhythm happening, when the beat and the electrifying movements begin, usually brought on by Rennie as he raps and physically zaps each dancer into action.
First up was "Hadika," composed by RHF Band, featuring The Hood Lockers, Phillip Cuttino, Joshua Culbreath, Katia Cruz, Leigh Foaad, Mai Le Ho, Tatiana Desardouin, Yuko Tanaka and Shafeek Westbrook. As Rennie raps about the history of breakdancing, hip-hop and funk, with references to P-Funk and Bootsy Collins, the dancers serve up some locking in unison, then break out into back-flips, twirling all over the floor, in all kindsa ways, adding the rest of the group, spread out all over the stage, some sitting on the rock formation levels on the sides of the stage, popping and locking in slo-mo, until one at a time they solo, each taking their own riff and improvising some great isolated and mind-bending movements.
In "Give The Drumah Sum," also by RHF Band, the performers, Andrew Ramsey, Joshua Polk, Marcus Tucker, Richard Evans, Phillip Cuttino, Joshua Culbreath, Shafeek Westbrook, Leigh Foaad, Mai Le Ho and Tatiana Desardouin, came out shimmying their shoulders to a mighty funky beat, and when the drum solo kicks in there's a fierce gymnastic jam, pulling out all the stops, where they are in and out swiftly, each taking a solo turn, hip-hopping, arms and legs swinging, headstands, handstands, donkey kicks, a serious, very athletic/gymnastic knee section and lots of gyrating to the funky sounds.
Throughout the entire evening, Rennie Harris is voice-overing the dialogue that keeps this story moving forward ~ a journey through what his '70s experience was, being there, absorbing the atmosphere and taking advantage of the artistry of the times to give relevance to what was accomplished and established in history. It is a lofty endeavor, and relevant in so many ways to our current "situation."
Next up was "Soul Maggot," with a rippin' guitar solo, "Maggot Brain," written by Eddie Hazel and George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic, that drove the audience wild. Matthew Dickey has some amazing chops which he demonstrated, complete with wah-wah pedal, a definite '70s funky effect which he worked to the max, giving dancer Leigh "Breeze-Lee" Foaad a funky road map to dance to.
The RHF Band Selection's (an interpolation of) "Soul Power" by James Brown, and "Kinship" by Matt Dickey also highlighted the incredible musicians' ability to wow the crowd all on their own. Musicians Doron Dev, Dave Levy, Matthew Dickey, Nicholas Marks, Osei Kweku and Samir Zarif hiked up the funk level considerably!
"110th Street Brothers" with music by Bobby Womack (Across 110th Street") & Martin Soveig's "I'm a Good Man," interpolated by the RHF Band, gave the female dancers a chance to shine. Some fantastic pop-locking in slo mo, as each of three girls soloed, each solo funkier than the next. The isolated hand-poppin' body lockin' moves were mesmerizing, especially when four male dancers in black-and-white striped shirts came out with their own groove together, breaking and locking at breakneck speed, then doing some great moves from the '70s; the four corners, the boogaloo, the skate, throwing in some acrobatics with them, each taking a horn phrase and expounding on it. There are flips done from the above landing, down to the stage, with some wild landings, jump-splits landing down on turned-in knees, just flying, leaping and twirling seemingly coming from everywhere.
"Supa Josh & Crazy Sax" was a mind-altering solo with music written and played by FKAjazz, where Joshua "Supa-Josh" Culbreath starts walking forward in slo mo, after being "woke" by Rennie, then proceeding to isolate every single muscle in both his arms as he pop-locks in great detail, switching to fluid movements when a slow, soulful guitar solo takes place, again, complete with that wah-wah effect, sharply accenting the specific beats. The guitar player takes the stage and riffs center stage, Supa-Josh answering him through his body, doing incredible, seemingly impossible ripple moves, a slow backbend into a side split, amazing isolation and detail to his every move, as guitar man kills it, and the drummer finishes up the number with a big bombastic ending.
"Ambient Lock," featured The Hood Lockers, Andrew Ramsey, Joshua Polk, Marcus Tucker and Richard Evans, music by The RHF Band, and was all about Soul Power and funky rhythms, the dancers in formation, answering the guitar licks the musicians offered up, hitting poses on the upbeat, and generally funkasizing the immediate stratosphere.
Phillip Cuttino, Joshua Culbreath, Katia Cruz, Leigh Foaad, Mai Le Ho, Tatiana Desardouin, Yuko Tanaka and Shafeek Westbrook are the listed dancers for "Yes I Can," a fantastic production number that has a little of everything FUNKY and worth being FUNKIFIED. "Can You Get It," by Mandrill, is a perfect final number, having everything AND the kitchen sink to feast on, and wraps up the evening on a high and happy note!
ALL the performers had their own style and interpretation of what they were doing, what they were moving to, what they felt. It was a down-to-earth artistic recitation of a conglomeration of talents and artistries, well-received and etched into pop culture.
Outstanding Lighting Design by Peter Jakubowski, Sound Design/Musical Direction/Production Darrin M. Ross, and Projections & Visual Designs by Jorge Cousineau, which all contributed to the onstage energy and atmosphere throughout.
Photos by Rennie Harris Puremovement/Lindsey Best