The Rennie Harris Puremovement dance troupe will bring “Rome and Jewels,” a hip-hop version of “Romeo and Juliet,” to SUNY Oswego for performances at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27. Part of the college’s Artswego Performing Arts Series, the production will unfold in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.
An award-winning choreographer and director, Harris transports Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers to the gritty streets of North Philadelphia. The result earned a Bessie Award for Choreography and rave reviews for connecting the tale with contemporary issues.
Harris said he drew inspiration for “Rome and Jewels” from such adaptations as “West Side Story” and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film version of “Romeo and Juliet.” The work combines dance, drama and a DJ and uses both Shakespeare’s original text and passages created by the cast.
“Throughout, the actor-dancers mix easily between the rich original and an almost as rich Slam-Street style poetry, their sampling as smooth as the DJ’s mixing,” Paul Ben-Itzak of Dance Insider wrote of the production. “The result is that the Shakespeare and the street poetry equally contribute a certain heft — and it ALL seems natural, as does the blending.”
Harris, who has taught dance workshops since he was 15, formed Puremovement in 1992 to preserve and disseminate hip-hop culture through workshops, classes, residencies, mentoring and performances.
“Puremovement push hip-hop as far as it can go, not just in their jaw-dropping coordination . . . but in the elaboration and reinvention of basic moves,” British newspaper The Guardian noted. “This is much, much more than simply dancing to records — just as the live DJ act that accompanies them is much more artful than simply spinning vinyl.”
The appearance at SUNY Oswego is made possible by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program, New York State Dance Force including support from the Altria Group Inc., and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour.
Tickets cost $20 ($15 for seniors and students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students). The production includes mature themes. For information or reservations, visit www.oswego.edu/arts, call 312-2141 or e-mail [email protected]