LORENZO (RENNIE) HARRIS is Founder and Artistic Director of Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop dance company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture through workshops, lectures, residencies, mentor programs, and performances. Harris’s work tours the globe and encompasses diverse African-American traditions while simultaneously presenting the voice of a new generation through its ever-evolving interpretations of dance. Harris is committed to providing audiences with a sincere view of the spirit of hip-hop rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes portrayed by the media. Harris is most known for his evening length work, Rome & Jewels, choreographed and directed in collaboration with dramaturge Ozzie Jones and composer/sound designer Darin Ross. Rome & Jewels uses Shakespeare’s text and original material by the cast to tell its own story based on West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. Rome & Jewels is the longest touring hip-hop dance theater work in American history. Harris also created the full-length shows, Legends of Hip Hop, Students of the Asphalt Jungle, and Facing Mekka. Rome & Jewels was awarded three Bessie Awards, two Alvin Ailey Black Choreographers Award, an Ethnic Dance Award, Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for Choreography and nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award (UK). He has received the “Philadelphia Rocky” award, Governors Artist of the Year Award, USA artist award for choreography, and honorary doctorates from Bates College and Columbia College-Chicago and was a USA cultural ambassador in President Obama’s cultural exchange program, Dance Motion, traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
“Sakamoto creates expressionist theater that evokes the mysterious, the withering and the tongue-in-cheek.” - The San Francisco Bay Guardian
MICHAEL SAKAMOTO is a transdisciplinary artist active in dance, theater, media, and photography. He is best known as an innovator in contemporary butoh, which serves as the philosophical base of all of his works. Michael’s ensemble and solo performances have been presented in over a dozen countries throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, including the Vancouver International Dance Festival (Canada), GAS Festival (Sweden), TACT/Fest (Japan), and REDCAT (Los Angeles). He has won awards and grants from major funders, including Japan Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Arts International, Meet the Composer, DanceUSA, and many others. Michael began his performance career perfoming and touring with legendary performance artist, Rachel Rosenthal, and was founding co-director of the avant-garde theater ensemble, Empire of Teeth, cited by LA Weekly as Best of LA theater companies. Additionally, Michael is a scholar and educator who has taught and lectured internationally, published articles, is Program Co- Director of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program at Goddard College and adjunct faculty at California Institute of the Arts.
THE BELLHOPS is a blues and hip hop theater ensemble of artist-scholars at UW-Madison. They believe that everyone’s experiences matter and as fellow artists (writers, vocalists, visual artists, and musicians), it is their responsibility to help tell each other’s stories. A Bellhop composes instrumentation, sings backup, and even co-writes in order to support the storyteller’s narrative. Ensemble: Taylor Scott (Lead Organizer, Songwriting, Voice), Hiwot Adilow (Songwriting, Voice),Jordan Llanas(Voice),Myriha Burton (Songwriting, Voice),Amy Riedel (Songwriting, Voice),EJ Newble (Voice), Eli Lynch (Song Writing, Organizer)
Ashley Street is a passionate writer, actress, and scholar that questions the complexities of self in her work in order to give voice to the silenced. She is a Milwaukee native currently a junior who has developed her own major, Modern Art and Comparative Cultures, at UW-Madison. Street is a member of the 2011 UW-Madison CUPSI Slam Team, coach to the 2012 UW-Madison CUPSI Slam Team, and a member of First Wave’s Fourth Cohort.
A daughter of Milwaukee, Nakila Robinson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a degree in Secondary Education and English. A member of OMAI First Wave Community, Nakila enjoys writing, spittin’ and learning to love others with an unconditional passion.