Hate to Break It to Ya

Rennie Harris doesn't mind if you use a superlative or two to describe the funkdafied hip-hop and b-boy style his Puremovement dance company will bust out at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts this weekend.

After all, he's heard them all before: dazzling, dynamic, inspiring, compelling . . . the list goes on. Just don't mention the word "breaking," fool.

"No such thing as 'break-dancing.' That's a misnomer, a term created by the media," Harris explains. "What they're referring to is actually b-boy or b-girl culture, one of maybe 15 or 20 different styles in our show that falls under the umbrella of hip-hop."

The 40-year-old choreographer and director rattles off the furious styles represented in his company's repertoire. "Whether you're talking about hip-hop proper to house to flexing, vogue, second-line, or all the funk styles: Campbell locking, kicking, popping, strutting . . . we cover it."

This particular program is composed of five distinct pieces, each a fusion of history, movement, narrative and music. One number is "Students of the Asphalt Jungle," a harsh tale on the realities of being raised on the streets of Philadelphia (Harris' hometown) set to the music of Kool & the Gang, and DJ Miz.

While Harris says 95 percent of the moves are choreographed, there's still some improvisation, as the company's male dancers will pop off a few showstoppers like the windmills or the helicopter when the mood strikes them.

"People don't understand the aesthetics or history of the hip-hop movement, so they focus on the flips and acrobatics," he says. "They've been conditioned to want to be entertained every time they go out versus having to think."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.