“Any professional tap dancer is a historian,” said Michelle Dorrance at a raucous, impassioned discussion of urban dance at City Center on October 7, 2015. “That’s it. That’s your job.” Hosted by Dr. Nijah Cunningham of Hunter College, the panel offered a long, loving look at the art of bringing forms of street dance to the stage—from tap to Brazilian hip-hop to the bruk up.
Sonia Destri Lie, whose Companhia Urbana de Dança is made up of untrained performers from the slums of Rio, spoke about breaking the eroticized stereotypes surrounding Brazilian dance. Flex pioneer Reggie Gray reminisced about the dance battleground of 1990s Brooklyn, where he and his friends started posing, bone-breaking, and ghostwalking. But they weren’t looking for their moves to catch on. “We wanted these styles for ourselves,” he said. “That’s what it’s for—it’s to beat someone else.” Soon, though, Gray noticed their moves popping up all over the borough. “Once Brooklyn takes it, you not getting it back,” he laughed.
“That’s like the rule of the street,” said Dorrance. “It’s like, steal it, make it your own.”
New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival continues through October 11.