LADIES OF HIP HOP: BLACK DANCING BODIES
March 29, 2022
Ladies of Hip Hop: Black Dancing Bodies, presented by the Guggenheim as part of their Works and Process series, was a wonderful suite of dance and history that brought together many generations of Black women in celebration of their contributions to hip hop.
The show began with a film by Loreto Jamling, made during the company’s residency at NYPL for the Performing Arts earlier this year. The dancers grooved in the stacks of the reference library and strutted their way down the long tables, transforming what is usually considered a quiet space into a wonderful dancehall, filled with energy and the sounds of clapping and stomping.
After the film was met with raucous applause we were treated to a series of live performances, beginning with a dance choreographed by LOHH’s executive director Michele Byrd-McPhee, whose exquisite footwork will be sticking with me for a long time. From little jumps that landed before you’ve realized they left the floor, to taps and hits that revealed the rhythms inside the music, the dancers effortlessly moved about the stage.
While Bryd-McPhee was credited as the choreographer for the first dance, it was only the structure of the pieces that she provided. As the night progressed, company members brought their own expertise to the stage. Hip hop dances are communal and before they were performed behind a proscenium they were pioneered in dance clubs, where moving together was paramount.
Byrd-McPhee is clearly aligned with house dance, but a menagerie of other styles like jazz and swing were also present in her choreography, and company members contributed vogue and whacking as well as stepping and West African. Even when the dancers were in unison their individual styles shone through—revealing the rich and varied tapestry of experience that the company brought to the stage.
The final dance began with a playground scene, dancers double-dutching and playing rhythmic hand games before morphing into competitive freestyle and breaking battles, met with cheering and whistling from the crowd.
In a triumphant scene near the end, Byrd-McPhee and LaTasha Barnes, another of the “dance elders” in the company, found themselves dancing on stage together, silhouetted against a bright orange backdrop, kicking their heels up and bringing the house down.
Dance lovers should keep their eyes open for this company in the future, they are a delight and not to be missed!
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele