Hip-Hop Dance Pioneer in Virtual Residence

Hip-Hop Dance Pioneer in Virtual Residence at Michigan Tech
to Explore Breaking, Jazz and How Artists Age

World-renowned hip-hop and breakdance artist Raphael Xavier will begin his virtual residence at Michigan Tech on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with an exploration of the ways maturity can alter both performer and performance in dance and jazz. 

“Raphael Xavier: Behind the Scenes of Sassafrazz, From Roots to Mastery” is the first in the series of virtual performances and events for the community. “Sassafrazz,” originally intended to be seen live before the pandemic, is a 20-year exploration of the life of a breakdancer and explores birth, life and death through three breaking styles: top rock, footwork and ground text.

Xavier’s long career and breakdance research led to the development of ground core, a style that is said to give artists a better understanding of the body that is useful in all dance forms.

Mary Jennings, director of programming for the university’s Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, said that since the pandemic made an in-person performance of Xavier’s planned tour impossible, the Rozsa team worked with Xavier’s team to build the virtual residency, which also includes a “Creative Jam Session” performance on April 13 from noon to 1 p.m.

“Together with his team, we didn’t want this to be just another virtual performance,” Jennings said.

Both the Thursday and April 13 performances are open to the public. Registration for the livestream can be completed at the Rozsa Center website.

Xavier and his company will improvise movement while accompanied by music and poems composed by Michigan Tech students. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Jennings also wanted the greater community to be able to access Xavier’s wisdom, so he will also be making a special virtual visit to Hancock’s Superior School of Dance. She credited his team for being so willing to explore the virtual residency concept.

“They were great to work with, and it’s just wonderful we have this extended access. Raphael is a true genius,” she said.

Xavier is an alumnus of the pioneering hip hop dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement. His solo and ensemble choreographic dance works have been performed worldwide. He is also a 2013 recipient of the Pew Fellowship, a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship, and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Xavier lives in Philadelphia and is a professor at Princeton University, where he teaches “History of Hip Hop Dance and Culture” and “Intro to Breaking” courses.

The presentation of Sassafrazz: From Roots to Mastery was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

What: Raphael Xavier: Behind the Scenes of Sassafrazz: From Roots to Mastery
When: Thursday, April 8, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Virtual event – Register Here

What: Raphael Xavier: Creative Jam Session With Music by Michigan Tech Students
When: Tuesday, April 13, 2021, noon-1 p.m.
Where: Virtual event – Register Here

This press release created by Chris Clonts, communications director for the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech. 


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