Rennie Harris' Legends of Hip Hop

The streets of New York arrive in the South Bank.


As part of the South Bank's Easter Delirium 2005 programme, the Queen Elizabeth Hall was home for four nights to Rennie Harris' Legends of Hip Hop. Dancers, DJs and beatboxers brought a taste of this dance form to enthusiastic audiences over Easter weekend 2005.

The show was made up of video, music and dance. The video appeared throughout the evening, as excerpts from Apache Line: From Gangs to Hip Hop traced the development of the culture. Sadly the sound was not great, and it was difficult to understand the various talking heads that appeared on the screen.

Nothing wrong with the dancing, though. Made up of The Electric Boogaloos, The Rock Steady Crew, The Mop Top Crew and sundry other Hip Hoppers, the effort and enthusiasm couldn't be faulted. Lenaya Straker of Mop Top sported an outrageous orange Afro that she managed to keep in place as she played a tailors dummy that springs into dance in the opening scene.

Undoubtedly the stars of the show were the old masters, and on Sunday night we were treated to some real old skool from Boogaloo Sam. His smooth style and infectious smile were winners all the way. He was matched by Greg Campbellock Jr. Pope, who was king of poppin' and lockin'. 

A younger star in the making was Shaun Roig, who became a human beatbox and produced an astonishing array of beats and rhythms which sounded at times like they had to be double-tracked.

On the sparse stage setting, Evil Tracy and  DJ Razor Ramone fought out a mixing battle, pulling out all the stops in showy displays of decksterity. 

The dance came from the streets, and just how they managed to spin on their heads, drop to their knees and perform swallow dives without causing major injury is a matter to ponder with wonder and respect. The relative youth of the culture meant that all the clips shown on the video were in colour; no grainy black-and-white footage for Hip Hop!

In amongst the moves you could still spot patterns and turns familiar to Lindy Hop. It just goes to show that that as an individual dance it looks different - but it's still family. 

2005 Andrew Winton.


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