The final event of the Hi-Arts Hip Hop Theater Festival held here in DC was a performance at Dance Place called “Jack Ya Body.” The week-long festival’s goal was to “mash-up multigenerational Hip-Hop culture together with creativity, education and the arts,” and after the dance performances I saw on July 13th, I believe they achieved this goal.

If you held any preconceptions about “hip-hop” or urban dance, this show would have surely set them straight. “Jack Ya Body” was made up of four separate performances. Each dancer and piece was inspiring and beautiful to watch, and as a dancer myself, I was very impressed.

After a quick word from Clyde Valentin, Producing Artistic Director of the Festival, and Kamilah Forbes, Artistic Director, the first dancer, Brandon Barnette, took to the stage to perform a piece that was a touching tribute to Sandman Sims. Complete with a little hip hop broom sweeping, a smile, and even a little bit of magic, he left the audience wanting more of his dancing and infectious personality.

The next performance included three dancers: Raphael Xavier, Cameron Beckham, and Husain Abdul-Zahir. This piece was an excerpt from “The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance” and included choreographer and performer Raphael Xavier telling the audience what we were going to see before he performed each skill. While I haven’t found break-dancing to be overly exciting in the past, I was overly impressed with each dancer, especially the female dancer, Cameron Beckham. Their breaking was effortless and lyrical, and their ability to synchronize while breaking was incredible.

The third performance may have been my favorite, as it combined beautiful hip-hop dancing with one of my favorite spoken word poems. Jordon Simmons glided across the stage to Jasmine Mans’ spoken word piece “Dear My Ex-Lover.” The audience was silent as Ms. Simmons told a story right in front of our eyes.

“Jack Ya Body’s” final performer was STORYBOARD P, who invented the ‘Mutant’ dance moves. While his movement seemed slow and minimal, it was obvious the moves he was doing were actually quite difficult. They seemed alien and unnatural, which made “mutant” a perfect description

Overall, “Jack Ya Body” was a perfect celebration of hip-hop dance, as well as the culture that surrounds it. While this was the last event of the DC Hi-Arts Hip Hop TheaterFestival, keep your eye out for these fresh dancers, as well as more events held at Dance Place.

For more information on the Festival, go to:

http://www.hi-artsnyc.org/hhtf-2013-information/

For more on Dance Place:

http://www.danceplace.org/

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