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Hip hop dance pioneers descend on Bay Area

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Embodiment Project is among the troupes appearing at the Illadelph Legends Hip Hop Festival, which debuts in Oakland and San Francisco this week. (COURTESY JARDY SANTIAGO)

For the first time in its 18-year history, the Illadelph Legends Hip Hop Festival is coming to the Bay Area.

Founded by Rennie Harris, the Philadelphia-based festival – based on that city’s nickname inspired by the slang word “ill” meaning “sick, dope, nice, amazing,” he says – was created to honor, preserve and disseminate knowledge about hip-hop dance and culture.

This week’s local events include an orientation and classes at Oakland’s Destiny Arts Center beginning Thursday, followed by showcase performances Friday and Saturday at San Francisco’s Z Space featuring some of the most celebrated names in hip hop from Philadelphia, New York and Washington D.C.

The showcase lineup includes: Sabela Grimes (Los Angeles), Raphael Xavier (Philadelphia), Dance Fusion NYC featuring Caleaf Sellers and Tony McGregor (New York), Junious Brickhouse (Washington DC), Soulshifters (Bay Area), Embodiment Project (Bay Area), as well as performances by Oakland based band Zakiya Harris & Elephantine and legendary local poppers Pop Tart and Prince Ali.

“The festival celebrates the spirit of the dance forms rather than simply exploring their commercial demeanor,” says Nicole Klaymoon, the festival’s local organizer and artistic director of Oakland’s Embodiment Project dance company. Convincing Harris, her mentor at UCLA, to bring the festival to the Bay Area was quite a coup. A grant from the city of Oakland sealed the deal.

Klaymoon, who has participated in many previous lladelph Legends festivals with members of her troupe, says, “There was always discussion and education from first-generation hip-hop dancers, original lockers or members of the Electric Boogaloo. Hip hop is a truly community-based social dance. It was healing and inspiring. It gave me a sense of purpose.”

While the festival offers a full immersion experience for those who want to commit to the entire event, individual classes – in hip hop, house, locking, waacking, popping, Bboying/Bgirling and other original styles – also are open to dancers and hip-hop fans of varying levels of experience.

In addition, panel discussions following Z Space shows feature the performers and special guests: founder Harris, Moncell Durden from Philadelphia, Zulu Gremlin from Los Angeles, Tyrone Proctor from New York and locals Traci Bartlow and Sarah Crowell. Crowell, artistic director of Destiny Arts Center, moderates the program on Saturday; Bay Area dance educator Marc Bamuthi Joseph moderates on Friday.

IF YOU GO

Illadelph Legends Hip Hop Festival
Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 26-27
Tickets: $20 to $30
Contact: (866) 811-4111, www.zspace.org
Note: Classes also run from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. June 25, followed by a 7 p.m. orientation and 8 p.m. show at Destiny Arts Center, 970 Grace Ave., Oakland; visit www.embodimentproject.org

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