Arts & Culture

Dance companies give cabaret a hip-hop twist



Nick Cote

Eugene’s top hip-hop dance companies are bringing the Bronx to Broadway.

More than 130 dancers from six companies will take the stage to revamp cabaret theater at the Hult Center with outlandish costumes, props and, most importantly, dance.

Led by Vanessa Martin, the founder, director and choreographer of Phenomenon Hip-Hop Dance Company, tomorrow’s “Cabaret” is loosely based on and will tell a similar story to the musical-turned-award-winning-film “Chicago.” But the show will feature many other well-known Broadway songs, as well.

Martin started Phenomenon six years ago at 19 as a sophomore at the University with the hopes that people her age could have a place to dance and perform. Since then, Phenomenon has grown from four to 30 dancers and has performed extensively, including seven sold-out shows at the Hult Center. Martin attributes the company’s success to its unique, more narrative-based productions.

“We always have a theme to our shows and an element of theater to them, so you’ll see the dancing and you’ll see the hip-hop stuff, but you’ll also see characters and a story line and more of a production, rather than just a dance show,” Martin said.

In addition to the junior and senior companies of Phenomenon, the show will feature dancers from King’s Krew, Work Dance Company, Urban Pulse, The Prestige and
Dance Northwest.

“The dance companies in Eugene have been really great at supporting each other in shows and coming together to put on a great production,” said Nathan Boozer, co-director and choreographer of Work Dance Company.

Boozer is looking forward to the show, noting that the production features lots of props, crazy costumes and costume changes.

“The audience is in for such a treat with this show. It’s going to tell a great story with the theme,” he said.

All six companies have been working for months to perfect their performances and deliver a quality production. Though the show focuses primarily on hip-hop, it will also include jazz dance and some tap.

“Audiences will enjoy the diversity of dance styles, the performance energy and excitement of the dancers and appreciate the originality and hard work of the dancers and choreographers involved,” said Lisa Gilliam, the director and choreographer for Urban
Pulse.

Anita Sanford, the director and choreographer of Dance Northwest, is happy her company is bringing back “Big Spenda,” one of the company’s favorite dances, for Friday’s show.
“Sizzle, sass, energy and theatrics will be all over the stage. All of Phenomenon’s productions strive to be very theatrical and entertaining. They never hold back,”
Sanford said.

On top of the costumes, props and dance, the show will feature a live performance by Aaron Martin, better known as emcee Examine the Truth from Eugene’s popular hip-hop crew The pHormula, as well as On the Rocks performing their viral rendition of Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance,” which has nearly 3 million views on YouTube.

“I’m really excited about this show because it’s big and really glamorous,” Martin said.

Tomorrow’s production promises to put the dazzle back in “razzle dazzle” as Eugene’s best hip-hop dancers give Broadway a hip makeover. The cooperative effort between the six companies guarantees a big dance production that will most likely make this Phenomenon’s eighth sold-out show at the Hult Center.

“I hope, when people see this piece, they too will take the opportunity in working with other directors and choreographers in collaborating with each other in the community. It was a great experience,” said Eileen King, the director and choreographer of King’s Krew.

And for those who are interested in taking the stage rather than a seat, Phenomenon, The Prestige, and Urban Pulse are all holding auditions later this month. 

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