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The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

Dubbed "the most respected—and the most brilliant—hip-hop choreographer in America" by The New Yorker, Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris reigns supreme in his hometown of Philadelphia. This June, he brings his latest world premiere, Rennie Harris: Funkedified, to the New Vic stage!

We sat down with Rennie and a few Funkedified dancers from his company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, to talk about the power and joy of movement and his mission to bring street dance to the world.

In between visiting "as many block parties as possible and dancing all night," Rennie Harris began teaching at universities around the country at just 15-years-old. Since then, he’s dedicated his life to preserving and presenting street dance as a legitimate art form. While breaking the stereotypes and expectations of what hip-hop culture can be, Harris has received two honorary doctorates, founded two dance companies and created Philadelphia’s annual Illadelph Legends of Hip-Hop Festival.

Funkedified Cast

The power of dance is a tangible thing in the world of Rennie Harris. His original work encompasses the diverse and rich African American traditions of the past, while presenting the voice of a new generation through an ever-evolving interpretation of dance. In choreographing he says, “I'm always chasing the feeling of freedom I get when I dance or when I choreograph a new piece,” and he aims to bring that sense of empowerment to others. 

Phil Cuttino Jr., who joined Rennie Harris Puremovement in 2012, emphasizes that dance has, "helped me learn about myself as a human, as a man, as a son and as a leader." Puremovement's Tatiana Desardouin adds, "[Dance] helps me discover new things about myself as a confident woman."

Throughout his impressive body of work, there's one continuous thread—spreading the word of hip-hop and street dance throughout the country. Since their founding, his two eminent companies, Rennie Harris Puremovement (New Vic 1999, 2004, 2015, 2018) and Rennie Harris RHAW (New Vic 2013), have taken center stage. Puremovement was born in 1992 to "re-educate [the public] about hip-hop and its culture through artistic work, lecture demonstrations and discussions."

Puremovement and Funkedified dancer Ricky "Glytch" Evans feels especially drawn to its core mission. He says, "My favorite thing about being a dancer is the ability to inspire others. Whether it's through teaching or performing, dance makes me feel something special, no matter how I'm engaging with it. It's a gift to positively affect the emotions of those around me by doing something that I love."

Funkedified Cast

Though thrilled with Puremovement's success, Rennie saw a problem quickly develop. Many talented young artists were lining up to audition—too many, in fact. They didn’t quite have the level of professionalism needed to join his flagship company. So, in 2007, he created a solution—RHAW (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works).

Initially conceived as a youth organization, driven by community outreach and education, RHAW has evolved into a training program to "forge new paths for young hip-hop hopefuls, and present hip-hop in its 'RHAW-est' forms." Often, those "young hip-hop hopefuls" transfer from RHAW to Rennie Harris Puremovement. There, the students become the educators and inspire a new generation of dancers. 

Outside of his companies, Rennie tries to reach the world...by simply educating it! A professor at over 11 universities (and counting), he’s inspired dancers all over the country in the classroom. Puremovement’s Leigh Foaad recalls, "My wife snuck me into Rennie's class at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), for two years. Then, I was invited to his annual festival, Illadelph, and was asked to join RHAW. Soon, I became a member of Rennie Harris Puremovement."

For Rennie’s fifth visit to the New Vic, he wanted to bring something special, a look back on his own coming of age in Philadelphia. This is a brand new work that’s not only entertaining, but reframes an artform that’s commonly dismissed as just "subway entertainment." Funkedified is a celebration of funk, through and through, but more importantly it’s a celebration of Rennie’s evolution as a dancer, choreographer and educator, set to the tune of the music that echoed through his childhood and inspired him to first learn to pop, lock and break!
 
 
Funkedified Thumb Get on up with Rennie Harris Puremovement! Inspired by the soundtrack of his youth—Soul Train on the TV and James Brown on the radio—Rennie Harris celebrates all that is funk in the world premiere of Funkedified. Get your tickets today!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson

In 15 years, 389,000 New York City students have discovered the transformative magic of theater in their classrooms with the New Victory Teaching Artists. To celebrate the exciting anniversary of our Classroom Workshop Program, we reached out to a few teachers who have collaborated with us over the years!



The New Victory Theater has been special from the start. Not only do they provide high-quality kid's theater from around the world, but sign-interpreted performances are scheduled for every production. I do not know if any other theater provides such accessibility to their young patrons. 

That respect and care is carried over into the pre- and post-show classroom workshops, where Teaching Artists visit our classroom to deepen our students' experience and understanding of each show. For example, my class attended A Sky For The Bears this season, which explores the themes of death and acceptance through puppetry and shadows. Our in-class post-show workshop directed the students to create cardboard puppets and play with shadow and light to create their own story of what it means to "go away but remain in someone's heart." After the visit, we continued to tell stories using shadow and light by setting up a learning center. The workshop challenged both our teachers' and our students' thinking and creativity. 

Thank you to the New Vic for respecting students and collaborating with teachers!
—Gary Wellbrock, PS 347 in New York, New York
  


I'm a music teacher at a public school in the South Bronx, where all of our students are developmentally disabled, multi-handicapped, autistic and/or have emotional disabilities. The workshops provide a creative space where students can participate in exciting ways. The Teaching Artists accommodate all students, regardless of their limitations. With them, every student is a star. The creativity and wisdom of our students have wowed us—the staff—many times.

The pre-performance workshops really prepare our students for the show they will be seeing and the post-performance workshops expand upon what they've seen. It goes without saying, but everyone, including my principal, sees these workshops as crucial to our arts program.

I commend The New Victory Theater for offering these wonderful workshops that stretch the imagination. I also can't thank them enough for giving our students an opportunity to experience live performances in an atmosphere that makes them all feel comfortable. Their hard work is greatly appreciated!
—Rita Prince, P186X in The Bronx, New York
 

The Teaching Artists who prepare the students to see the performances, or follow up on the visit are always high quality. The activities are fun, well-structured and expertly delivered. I've even stolen some of their ideas for use in my own work! It always amazes me how much they are able to accomplish in a short period of time like creating musical numbers, teaching circus tricks and staging shadow puppet shows. 
—Ron Sopyla, PS 88 in Queens, New York
 

I've been a public school elementary Drama Teacher for 23 years. When the New Vic first opened, I was so happy to have a place that consistently offered real theater for my students. When the classroom workshops started, it brought our experience to an entirely different level. The Teaching Artists are always top-notch, engaging and flexible! They get my students to open up their thinking (before and often after) a performance in a way that no amount of simply discussing the piece could ever do.
—Cynthia Blackwell, PS 58 in Brooklyn, New York
 

My experience with The New Victory Theater's Classroom Workshops has been wonderful! The Teaching Artists are enthusiastic, positive, patient and they know just what it takes to work with the students. Even my quietest students are excited to participate in the engaging activities they offer! Having the classroom workshops before going to a performance has really helped my students connect more to the show itself. It makes them feel like insiders, and they appreciate the experience so much more!

At one particular pre­show workshop, I had a student tell the teaching artist that she would not be coming to see the show with her class because she had an appointment to get her cast removed for her broken arm. The teaching artist told me that if I contacted the theater, they could set her family up with tickets for one of the public performances. I did this and the family got to see the show later that week. We were all so grateful for the kindness and consideration that was shown by the Teaching Artist and by the theater!
—Joan Christou, Nest+m in New York, New York
 
 
Funkedified Thumb Interested in learning more about our Classroom Workshop Program? Find out more here!

Put a little funk in your step, create a crew identity and start a Soul Train line at home in this Family Activity for Funkedified! For each show in our season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past posts here on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

Put a Little Funk in Your Step

Inspired by the soundtrack of his youth—Soul Train on the T.V. and James Brown on the radio—Rennie Harris celebrates all that is funk in Funkedified. In this activity, get to know a little bit about the fascinating history of funk and learn a few simple locking moves! 

Step One: Read through these fun facts.

Funk Facts
Step Two: Get inspired by some of these professional and amateur dancers on Soul Train by watching this video.
Step Three: Follow along to learn these three easy steps.
 
 
Working Through Your Crew

Most of Soul Train's success is owed to the dancers' colorful costumes and amazing moves. In this activity, you'll create a name and look for your crew!

Materials: Dancer template

Step One: Look at some of these dance crew styles for inspiration!

The Lockers
The Lockers
 
The Lockers
The Lockers
 
Nerd Alert
Nerd Alert
 
Boogie Bots
Boogie Botz
 
Fanny Pak
Fannie Pak
 
Jabbawockeez
The Jabbawockeez

Step Two: Create your signature move! This can be anything you want. It could be your own spin on popular dances of today like dabbing or the backpack kid. Maybe you could bring a new flare to a classic, like the electric slide. If the spotlight is on you, what's your move?

Signature Dance Move

Step Three: Let's start with your crew name. You and your family or friends can draw inspiration from your hometown, where you live now, your favorite colors, your favorite hobby or your go-to dance moves. You can even use some nicknames. Here are some dance crew names to inspire your creation. 

Crew Names

Step Four: Get your look on point! Whether you're inspired by a cool over-the-top hat, some shiny pants or your favorite color, create a memorable look for your dance crew! Once you figured it out, print out one of these templates and sketch out some of your crew's outfit ideas. 

Dancer Cutouts

Souuuul Train!
You have your crew, you have your look and you even have a few moves! Test out some of these moves at home in a Soul Train line with your family and friends!

Step One: Start by making two lines, or even a small huddle.

Soul Train

Step Two: Give everyone a chance to show off their moves or dance down the line with a partner, but never stop moving or cheering them on!

Step Three: Turn on some of these tunes to get the party started!
 
 


 

 
Funkedified Thumb Get on up with Rennie Harris Puremovement! Inspired by the soundtrack of his youth—Soul Train on the TV and James Brown on the radio—Rennie Harris celebrates all that is funk in the world premiere of Funkedified. Get your tickets today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

Discover your Chinese zodiac sign and imagine your very own adventure in this Family Activity for Panda's Home! For each show in the season, we post a new Family Activity. You can find all of our past posts on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

Year of the You

In Panda's Home, dancers travel through the rich cultural landscape of China, encountering bamboo forests, ancient traditions and animals along the way! In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with a different animal. In this activity, develop a character based on one of these animals. 

Step One: There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. You can find your zodiac sign based on the year you were born! Use the chart below to discover the animal signs for each of your family members:
  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971
Step Two: Now that you know your zodiac sign, it's time to get into character. Pretend you are that animal using the prompts below. Don't be afraid to get silly!
  • What noise does your animal make?
  • Does your animal run? Fly? Slither?
  • Is your animal furry? Feathery? Smooth?
  • How can you move like your animal?
Step Three: As a family, look here to find some of the qualities associated with your sign to find out what makes your animal special. Try to show your special qualities while acting like the animal. Are you any of the following?
  • A smart pig
  • A happy horse
  • A loyal dog
  • A proud rooster
  • A wild dragon
Color and Create

In the show, panda footprints are used to map out the journey. In this activity, create your own map with exciting stops along the way to imagine an epic adventure!

Materials: My Animal's Journey Sheet, crayons or colored pencils, pencils or pens

Step One: Adults, print out a copy of My Animal's Journey Sheet for each of your family members. 

My Animal's Journey
Step Two: First things first—find out where you're going. Adults, ask your kids what their favorite place in the whole world is, real or imagined. Is it grandma's house? The playground? Fairyland? Puppy palace? Pick one and fill in that answer on the sheet! Everyone in your family should do this for their own journey.

Now do the same for the rest of the blank categories. Here are some examples for the other stops on your journey, but there are no wrong answers!

Somewhere Outdoors:
  • A local park
  • The beach
  • A hiking trail
  • A street corner
  • A forest
Somewhere to Get a Snack
  • A pizzeria
  • An ice cream shop
  • The grocery store
  • Candy Land
  • Your favorite restaurant!
Somewhere Wild
  • The tallest tip of the tallest mountain
  • Under the deep blue sea
  • The far reaches of outer space
  • Superhero training headquarters
Step Three: It's time to color in your journey. Draw the locations you picked in the boxes on your map. Get creative with colors and shapes!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Every journey has a story and now it's time to tell yours! Explore all the details of your Journey Sheet and act out your adventure.

Step One: Tell your story, beginning, middle and end. Adults, help kids imagine why their characters traveled from place to place. Think about these questions to get into character.
  • Why does my character need to go to my favorite place?
  • What is something outdoors they need to do before they get there?
  • What happens along the way from their outdoor location that makes them a little hungry?
  • How does eating their snack make them feel?
  • Do they get lost? Do they know where they’re going?
  • When they get to their third location, are they tired? Happy? Scared?
  • Do they meet anyone along the way?
  • How do they finally get to their favorite place?
  • What do they do to celebrate when they get there?
Step Two: Now get into character! Practice the face your character might make when they get to each location on their journey. Rehearse your character with your family. Are they...
  • Excited to get there?
  • Nervous about travelling to the next place?
  • Surprised by someone they meet along the way?
Step Three: Tell your story again—only this time, act out the story as your character. Invite family members and friends to see your animal's journey. Good luck, and have fun on your trip!
 
Panda's Home Thumb Get your tickets today to venture into the depths of China's rich culture with Panda's Home!
Posted by Beth Henderson

The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how teens ages 16-21 in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program here!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from the Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher Anabel Rivera from Harlem, New York.
 
Anabel Rivera
My favorite show at The New Victory was…
I loved Cuba Vibra because it was a dance show. It was so much fun to watch people dance to songs that I connected with. Every time I watched the show, I would always dance along.
 
The thing I like most about being an usher is…
I like getting to interact with patrons from different cultures. I always learn something new from them!
 
My love of theater started...
It first started when I attended a performing arts high school.
 
Who inspires you?
My grandma inspires me because she's been through so much. She's a strong woman who overcame a multitude of obstacles to build a life for her family.
 
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school was math class because it always felt easy for me. 
 
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not at work?
I really enjoy getting to spend my free time with my family.
 
What's your favorite NYC hangout or neighborhood?
Randall's Island is special to me. My family would always go there on Sundays to play soccer when I was little!
 
Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
The most challenging thing about being an usher is probably handling more than one role at a time. It always keeps you on your toes because you don't know what's coming next!
 
Describe your dream vacation.
My dream vacation would be to go to Puerto Rico. All I want to do is lay down in the sand, watch the palm trees and eat great food while listening to reggae.
 
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I always had the best time riding bikes with my cousins!

 
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Photo: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Posted by Beth Henderson