By Nicole Barhorst
Ohio Wesleyan students and staff, as well as Delaware community members, filled Chappelear Drama Center Friday night for a performance by RHAW, the first hip-hop dance theater dance company in the world.
Sophomore Nathan LaFrombois said he thought the “passionate” RHAW performance “set the standard” for future Performing Art Series shows at Ohio Wesleyan.
“I had never heard of concert hip-hop before; it was a new concept for me,” he said. “My favorite part was whenever individuals were spotlighted with the group dancing in sync behind.”
Established in 2007, RHAW stands for “Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works,” according to the company’s website. This youth dance company was created as a preparatory group for the Harris’s Puremovement company, which features older dancers and was started in 1991.
Harris said he established the company because of the “overwhelming interest from teens and young adults” to join Puremovement.
RHAW trains pre-professional dancers and teaches them the history of street dancing, professionalism and techniques in various street-dancing styles.
The main goal of this Philadelphia-based company is to “encourage youth by demonstrating discipline and focus through Hip-hop theater performance, and education and outreach programing,” the website said.
The best part of the performance, according Delaware community member Erica Ankrom, was a piece choreographed to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it was “slower and had a story.”
According to the website, the piece is part of the full-length dance musical “Love American Style” that RHAW is premiering next week at Frostburg State University in Maryland. The musical addresses themes such as bullying and family relationships.
Ankrom said even though she doesn’t know anything about dance, she really enjoyed the performance.
Jenn Meckley, a Delaware community member, said she attended the event because she saw the Rennie Harris Puremovement Company perform a few years ago and enjoyed it.
She said she thought the RHAW performance was “energetic” and she loved seeing the dancers freestyle.
In a post-show question-and-answer session, RHAW member Brandyn Harris, son of Rennie Harris, said he’s been dancing for most of his life, but wasn’t interested in being part of the company at first because he really liked “to eat and play video games.”
Harris’s friend and fellow RHAW member Davion “Skates” Brown said he got his nickname from his background in skateboarding. Originally from western Philadelphia, he has been dancing with RHAW for four years.
“Everything I’ve done with skateboarding easily translated to dance,” Brown said.
Rich Edwards, four-year chair of the Performing Art Series for four years, said OWU has been hosting visiting artists for about a century, and that the events in this series “meet a high standard of performance that is enjoyable, thought-provoking and inspiring.”
Edwards said he and his colleagues try to create “special educational experiences” as often as possible for students to have with the visiting artists. These experiences include discussion groups or master classes where students can learn how the artists created their performances.
Edwards said there are five other events in the 2013-14 Performing Art Series: a New York Jazz quintet, a Japanese/Indian music duo, a one-man comedy show, the Central Ohio Symphony from Delaware and a new age ensemble for modern classical music.