Jennifer Weber's all-grrrl DecaDanceTheatre brings an evening of vanguard Big Apple hip-hop dance to Overture's Capitol
Theater on Valentine's night. Weber's here to demolish the perception that men have a lock on popping and locking, and she's gonna succeed.
Weber says she was a jazz- and tap-dance kid who phased from the rave scene into hip-hop. As an undergrad in the late '90s at U Penn in Philly (master b-boy choreographer Rennie Harris' hometown) she started up her own company, a DecaDance precursor. There are women in some of Harris' works - though none on the program he did here a couple years back - but Weber's spent the last decade slaying several stereotypes once and for all.
Her dancers cook, but they don't move like men. Weber pits 21st-century feminist sensibilities against what she calls "booty-girl videos." Her dancers lock, pop, break and freestyle, but they know how to put slinky shoulders or Latin hips on funky street moves, or switch up the flow with glissades and ballety turns. Weber sets this hybrid vocabulary within narrative dances built on formal choreographic frameworks. Check out the video clip of their "DecaDance vs the Firebird" (www.decadancetheatre.com) - you'll see what I mean.
The members of DecaDance hail from Italy, Germany, Japan and diverse U.S. regions. "People think of hip-hop as an African American art," Weber says, "but the ultimate equalizer in hip-hop is skill. It doesn't matter where you come from if you can prove it on the mike, on the graffiti wall, in dance. It's a culture based on competition. It's all about battling for your crew. In dance you gotta be competent and get your body into all kinds of crazy positions. Not all women are aggressive enough, and as women we have to battle twice as hard."
"DecaDance vs the Firebird," rooted in Diaghilev's original ballet, takes everybody on. Weber's score mashes up Stravinsky's famous composition with hip-hop. Her classic storyline casts good against evil, but in this streetwise remake of a ballet that's already seen some extraordinary incarnations, the battle's about ruling the dance floor. The 50-minute "Firebird" is on Thursday night's bill, along with a pair of shorter repertory works: "The City Breathing," an ode to Tokyo's craziness with a Cirque-y look, and "Dusty Guns," which Weber calls a classic hip-hop finale.