Rennie Harris

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Rennie Harris
Lorenzo Harris

(1964-01-28)January 28, 1964
OccupationDancer, Choreographer, Director
Years active1976 - Present

Rennie Harris (born Lorenzo Harris on January 28, 1964) is a dancer, choreographer, artistic director and professor of hip-hop dance. Harris formed the first and longest running hip-hop dance touring company, Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1992.[1] In 2007, he conceived another touring company, RHAW or Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works.[2]

Harris has received numerous awards for his theatrical hip-hop dance performances or what he refers to as, "Hip-Hop concert dance". He is known for such works as Rome and Jewels, Facing Mekka, 100 NAKED LOCKS, Heaven, and a host of innovative repertory works, which have broken many stereotypes and expectations of hip-hop dance. After receiving an honorary doctorate from Bates College and an honorary doctorate from Columbia College, Harris' company was chosen as 1 of 4 US companies to serve as cultural ambassadors for President Obama's "Dance Motion USA." In 2012, it toured the Middle East, performing and giving hip hop workshops to Egyptians, Israelis and Palestinians.[3]

Early years[edit]

Growing up in North Philadelphia, PA, Rennie was first inspired by Don Campbell’s group, The Campbell Lockers, after seeing them on the TV show Soul Train. He started dancing socially as a kid but when he was around 12 years old, he started a dance group called Cobra III with his brother and childhood friend, nicknamed “Brainy.” Cobra III entered and won a local church talent show, marking the beginning of Harris’ life commitment to dance.

Commercial career[edit]

Rennie Harris started his career by forming dance groups during his teens, such as the GQ group called, The Step Masters and a popping crew called, The Scanner Boys. These groups opened and performed with such acts as: Afrika Bambaataa, West Street Mob, Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three, Super Nature, currently known as Salt-n-Pepa, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Doug E Fresh, Double Trouble, Roxanne Shante, UTFO, Whodini, Newcleus, Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Madonna, Brandy, Aliah, Sugar Hill Gang, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, The Tramps, and Debarge, among others.[4] Also known as, Prince of the Ghetto, Harris was also a member of The Magnificent Force. Rennie worked for the TV dance shows: "Dancin' On Air", "Dance Party USA", and then was given his own show to host called, "One House Street." Rennie Harris finished his commercial career with a prolonged tour with Cathy Sledge of Sister Sledge, as a choreographer and dancer. Harris then returned to Philadelphia and The Scanner Boys to continue to innovate hip-hop dance. The Scanner Boys disbanded in 1992 with their last performance at the “Dancing in the Streets" festival held at 30th Street Train Station in Philadelphia.

Rennie Harris Puremovement[edit]

The pioneer of Street Dance Theater or Hip-hop Concert dance, Rennie Harris founded, Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1991-92, the company was created to further his efforts to preserve and disseminate hip-hop culture. The company's mission is to re-educate about hip-hop and its culture through its artistic work, lecture demonstrations, and discussions. The company currently performs newer repertory works such as: "Something to Do with Love", "Get It," and "Love American Style," among a host of other works. The company has performed such evening length productions as: "Rome and Jewels", "Facing Mekka", and "Heaven", of which they have won numerous awards for. 2012 marks the 20th Anniversary of Rennie Harris Puremovement of which the company toured excerpts of past works as well as newer works in commemoration.[1]

Illadelph Legends of Hip-Hop Festival[edit]

Started in 1998, Rennie Harris started Illadelph Legends of Hip-Hop Festival to bring together the pioneers of the various forms of Street Dance. Focusing primarily on teaching technique, philosophy, history and aesthetic of street dance. illadelph dance was the first of its kind and was the catalyst for many of the Street Dance intensives to date. Devoid of competition the festival is believed to be the first to only offer dance classes, panel discussions, and performances. Some of the seminal and legendary pioneers that taught at illadelph were pioneers such as Don Campbell of The Campbell Lockers aka The Lockers, Mr. Wiggles, Ken Swift, Budda Stretch, Tweety, Caleaf Sellars, Moncell "Ill Kosby" Durden, Lil Rep, Crazy Legs, and international artists like Meech from France, Hiro from Japan, and Eva Shou from Denmark. The festival passes on the knowledge, tradition, and dance vocabulary of the various forms, such as Popping, Breaking, Locking, House dance, Waacking, and vogue to name a few. Illadelph Legends is the first Street Dance festival to specifically feature and promote technical classes and workshops on the history and theory with the pioneers and historians of street dance young and old. Illadelph Legends is in its 20th year and continues to serve as a model for international hip-hop/street dance festivals who share in the same vision of re-educating the masses about hip-hop dance and culture.[5]


Rennie started teaching hip-hop at the age of 15 with the Smithsonian Institution and continues to teach at various universities across the world. While is company is touring Rennie teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder from August 26-December 18th and at the University of Texas Austin from January 15-May 15th. In addition when traveling with his company he teaches workshops and lectures on the history of hip-hop and the various techniques of street dance that sprang from the culture. In 2010, Harris received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bates College and a Doctorate in the Arts and Humanities from Columbia College for his work and commitment to Street and hip-hop dance. He has taught at Universities such as the University of Colorado-Boulder, Stanford University,[6] New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, Temple University, Villanova University, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Ohio State University, Michigan University, University of Hawaii, Harvard University, among many others. As a part of his efforts to educate the world about hip-hop, he passes on his historical knowledge of the dance through performances all over the world, including but not limited to: London, Italy, Japan, China, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, West Africa, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, New Zealand, Perth, Auckland, Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, and the Bahamas. In addition, he has performed in theaters such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Kennedy Center, Jacob's Pillow, Joyce Theater, Symphony Space, New Victory Theater, The Apollo Theatre in New York, Sadler's Wells Theatre (London), The Southbank Centre (London) and many other theaters and universities in the US and internationally.


Rennie Harris has broken new ground as being one of the first hip-hop choreographers to set works on ballet-based companies such as the Memphis Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. He has also been commissioned by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadelphia Dance Company, Giordano Dance Chicago, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theater 2, Group Motion and[citation needed] Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater of which he is not only the first Street Dance choreographer to set work on Alvin Ailey but also the first in the history of Alvin Ailey to set an hour work on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater entitled "Lazarus" (2018).

Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring-Works (RHAW)[edit]

" We had an overwhelming response from younger dancers who wanted to join Rennie Harris Puremovement and so I founded a second company to meet this demand. I wanted the second company to be a training company that would teach technique, professionalism, responsibility, work ethic and Dance and Theater etiquette. RHAW's (Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works) mission is to focus on the education of the youth and mentorship. In addition the youth will learn the history of hip-hop and its relativity to today's fast growing youth culture. Artistically RHAWS choreographic works are less complexed than the first company. RHAW prides itself on going back to the basics of street dance and presenting works that are reflective of its original movement vocabulary and aesthetic." ~Rennie Harris~[7]

Choreographed Works[edit]

  • "Lazarus" Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 2018
  • (Vegas Contemporary Dance Company) (2011)
  • "Home" (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) (2011)[8]
  • "Awake" (The Philadelphia Dance Company- Philadanco) (2011)
  • "Another One Bites the Dust" (RHAW) (2011)
  • “Voices” (Contact Theatre) (2010)
  • "3 B-boys & a Girl" (RHAW) (2010)
  • "Image" (RHAW) (2010)
  • "A Man’s World" (RHAW) (2010)
  • “Reign” (Lula Washington) (2009)
  • "Lavender Lover" (University of Colorado-Boulder) (2009)
  • (Rutgers University) (2009)
  • (Gus Giordano Jazz Company ) (2009)
  • “Something to do with Love” (University of California, Irvine) (2008)
  • “Endangered Species- solo by Desmond Richardson" (Complexions Contemporary Ballet) (2007)
  • “Philadelphia Experience” (The Philadelphia Dance Company) (2007)
  • “Jacobs Ladder” (Dayton Contemporary Dance Company) (2007)
  • “Pure Dance” (RHPM) (2007)
  • (William Penn Foundation) (2007)
  • (Ford Foundation) (2007)
  • "Ms. Spellings of Be" (2006)
  • “Meditation of a Goddess” (Goddess) (2006)
  • “PrinceScareKrow Road to the Emerald City” (Rennie Harris) (2006)
  • “100NAKEDLOCKS” (RHPM) (2006)
  • “Heaven” (RHPM) (2006)
  • “Human” (University of the Arts) (2006)
  • “Soul” (Sam Houston State University) (2006)
  • (Expressions Dance Company) (2005)
  • “Scourge” (Marc Bamuthi Joseph) (2005)
  • (Colorado Ballet) (2004)
  • "Love Stories" (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) (2004)
  • "Facing Mekka" (RHPM) (2003)
  • "Honoring the Source" (Legends of Hip-Hop) (2001)
  • (Ballet Memphis) (2001)
  • "Rome & Jewels" (RHPM) (2000)
  • Pan Logo (1998)
  • Mr. Campbell Lock (1998)
  • Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop (1997)
  • "March of the Antmen" (1997)
  • “Shut Up and Dance!” (Pennsylvania Ballet) (1997)
  • "Hip-Hop and Holler!" (1997)
  • (John Coltrane Project) (1996)
  • Art Works in Different Place (1996)
  • "Lorenzo’s Oil" (Philadelphia Museum of Art, John Cage Exhibit) (1995)
  • "Fallen Crumbs from the Cake" (Pennsylvania Prison Society) (1995)
  • "Students of the Asphalt Jungle" (Chuck Davis) (1995)
  • The Rainbow Connection (1995)
  • Patriots (1995)
  • "State of Mind II" (Ivrim Festival) (1994)
  • Prima Materia Phila, PA (1994)
  • "Death Becomes Me" (1993)
  • "3 Minutes with You" (1993)
  • "P-Funk" (RHPM) (1993)
  • "Peace Out to James" (1993)
  • "Silent House" (1993)
  • "Beautiful Human Lies" (1993)
  • "State of Dazement" (1992)
  • "Endangered Species" (Mime Now Festival) (1992)
  • "Fresh Fruit" (1992)
  • "Puremovement" (1991)
  • "Hip-Hop to Be-Bop" (1987)
  • "Private Dancer" (1986)
  • "Nuclear War" (1986)
  • "Africana" (1985)
  • "Nuclear Wild Style" (1985)
  • "Oriental Pop" (1983)
  • "Planet Rock" (1982)
  • "Step Master" (1978)
  • "Cobra" (1977)




  1. ^ a b Harris, Rennie (2011). "RHPM Home". RHPM. Retrieved 2011-11-26. Founded in 1992 by North Philadelphia native Rennie Harris, Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM) was conceived
  2. ^ Harris, Rennie (2011). "RHAW Misson". RHAW. Retrieved 2011-11-15. Conceived in 2007, Founder Rennie Harris originally founded Rennie Harris Awe-inspiring Works as a youth organization driven by community outreach, education i.e. lectures and classes, as well as mentorship.
  3. ^ "Rennie Harris Puremovement". DanceMotion USA. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Rennie Harris/Puremovement: Rennie Harris, Artistic Director, Philadelphia, PA" (PDF). Dance Motion USA. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  5. ^ Kraus, Lisa. "A hip-hop education Illadelph, the festival of hip-hop dance fathered by Rennie Harris, is growing every year - with dancers around the world arriving to learn the gospel". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  6. ^ Ziv, Stav. "A hip-hop history: Rennie Harris Puremovement". Stanford Daily. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  7. ^ Harris, Rennie (2011). "RHAW Misson". RHAW. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Rennie Harris dancer/choreographer". CalArts Alpert Awards. Retrieved 24 October 2012.

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