In an evening that created a sense of community and sense of relief from this past week’s stress, Movement Revolution Dance Crew (MRDC) brought fun, warmth and high-energy dance to their fourth annual “Opposites Attract” showcase with an intimate, yet loud and supportive audience. Running March 14-15 at Stage 773, “Opposites Attract” featured short works choreographed by different dancers from the crew that brought together opposing themes, music and dance genres (spanning traditional street dance techniques to contemporary-hip hop blends). The Movement Revolution Youth Crew (ages 12 and under) and Future Crew (ages 12-18) also performed upbeat hip hop works choreographed by MRDC founder and creative director Monternez Rezell and crew member Dana “DC” Christy.
As hip hop and urban dance forms become continually blended into both commercial and concert contemporary dance, the history and roots of these styles can easily become lost or overlooked. It’s clear that Rezell strived to preserve hip hop’s legacy in this show, even as his company played with other styles at many points throughout the performance. Each piece was preceded by a brief, rhyming description of the work that included what hip hop techniques were used, including popping, breaking, shuffling, footwork, animation, waving and more.
Highlights of the two-hour performance were: a theatrical old school vs. new school hip hop battle between Terrence “TJ” Morris, Jr. and Rezell, a duet by Ashley Esper and Michelle Hansen that creatively used a quirky jazz and hip hop blend to portray the relationship between a dancer and her mirror reflection, a small group work by TJ that took the audience through an animation dance simulation and the closing company work by Rezell that creatively imagined break dance training in the year 3020—passed down from master to student in a martial-arts style series of step-by-step lessons and levels of mastery.
These works stood out for how they used creative choreography to transport audiences into different hip hop worlds and stories—the reason I feel that people go to see hip hop and street dance in a formal theater setting over something more casual. In TJ’s simulation piece, he used an automated and futuristic theme-park-ride voiceover and some witty acting to set the audience up for a few minutes of fun popping, waving and animation-style dance.
While it was refreshing to see so much athletic, positive and purely fun dance—everyone on stage and in the audience was clearly enjoying it—the length of the two-hour performance weakened my overall impression of “Opposites Attract.” With a few of the crew members choreographing three or four works each, it started to feel like many of these short dances (only one piece was longer than five minutes and many were shorter than three minutes) were lacking the deeper development and choreographic layers that can make concert hip hop so dynamic.
In a trio that illustrated a bi-racial, gender non-conforming couple as they navigated the struggles of their relationship, I was pleasantly surprised to see the tension between physical opposites and the intangible love connecting the dancers onstage portrayed through a blend of hip hop, contemporary and pointe dancing. But with only three minutes of choreography dedicated to a topic that warrants specific attention to detail, research and personal reflection, the choreography presented ended up reading as vague and surface-level. A piece like this could have been a very unique and essential addition to the conversation around opposing connections, but lack of either preparation or choreographic development led to the piece falling flat.
A consolidated show would have given more meaning to the stronger works presented, and would have potentially provided more time and focus to develop a few of the works that showed conceptual and choreographic potential.
Throughout the entire evening, however, the infectious family connection between the members of MRDC and their love of dance and hip hop provided a warm space for people to come together, cheer each other on and groove. From the youth programs to the main crew, Movement Revolution Dance Crew created a celebration of community and the joy of dancing. There's only one more chance to get out and see this dynamic group, to learn a little more about hip hop’s legacy and to have fun.
Movement Revolution Dance Crew presents “Opposites Attract” Sunday, 2:00pm at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets are $20 and can be found by clicking the event link below.