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Published: Sunday, 12/12/2004

Urban attitude

BY RHONDA B. SEWELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Whether you're part of the contemporary MTV generation, or are old enough to remember having to put the yellow plastic disc in the middle of the record to play your 45s, you'll move to the high-energy homage to 30 years of hip-hop, Break! The Urban Funk Spectacular, Saturday at the Stranahan Theater. The show is all about celebrating the genre's positives.

The international touring production, which fuses dances such as "locking," "Electric Boogaloo," "breakdancing," and hip-hop and electronic music, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. A large projection screen behind the dancers provides images of street and alleyway scenes from New York City, nightclubs, a car wash, and walls of graffiti.

Steve Love, Break! producer, said the show traces the history of hip-hop, a distinct American art form with many African roots that encompasses music, fashion, slang, graffiti, disc jockeying, dance, and MC (rapper) skills.

"Many of our show's dancers have worked with major stars, from Jay-Z to Madonna, but what makes the show is, we breathe hip-hop and all the positive statements of the movement. We keep it alive, from heavy-duty locking, popping, breaking, and emceeing to bucket drumming and power tumbling," said Love, who also produces The New York Express Roller Dance Company. Love added that hip-hop dancing has been influenced by a number of sources, going back to James Brown's 1969 hit, "Get on the Good Foot" which inspired dancers to mimic some of the singer's dramatic drops, splits, and spins.

An October review in the Houston Chronicle compared the high-energy Break! to "a cross between the percussion-oriented "Stomp" and Savion Glover's tap history "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk!" The show, Love said, has been popular among several generations of audiences, especially those in their 30s and 40s who were in the thick of the genre's birth, to younger pre-teens, teens and adults who are apart of hip-hop's current culture.

"This is a family-oriented, positive show, and has something for everybody. It's back in the streets, without being violent. It's pure funk and shows the best in the world in hip-hop," said Love, who added that at many performances members of the audience get up and dance at their seats and often can be seen cheering at on-stage antics, which include dramatic headspins, spiders, front and back flips, crazy legs, popping, locking, windmills, and flares.

The New York City-based troupe, which ranges in size from about eight to 14 depending on the venue, features dancers who have been in commercials, movies, and performances with celebrities such as Madonna, Janet Jackson, B2K, Ringo Star, P. Diddy, 50 Cent, Luther Vandross, and Whitney Houston.

For example, there's Miami native Alex Polanco, a six-year member and choreographer of the show, who has worked closely with Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine and has been featured dancing and roller-skating in commercials for Hershey's and 7-Up.

"Around 17 is when I started loving this type of dance and movement. I would watch the dancers on Soul Train and American Bandstand and try to dance just like them. As time went by I got into roller derby, and then locking and robotic dance," said Polanco, 49.

Show personalities include Aquaboogy, who performs a Living Mannequin solo; Bring in 'Da Noise vet Peter Rabbit, a bucket drummer, along with robot master Doc, Ill Will Sanchez, and Lockin' Q, a female pop locker of the dance troupe.

All tickets for "Break! The Urban Funk Spectacular," scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., are $20 and $25 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets and at the Stranahan box office at 419-381-8851. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are also available at the door.

The show's local promoter will afford a nonprofessional dance group the opportunity to open for "Break!," win VIP seating for the show, and other prizes. To register - the deadline is tomorrow - call 1-734-242-6600. There is no age restriction, but registrants must represent a school or organization. The judged dance contest, where a winner will be announced, will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ohio Skate, 1370 Conant St., Maumee.

Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: rsewell@theblade.com

or 419-724-6101.



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