‘Street Beat’ Features Urban Rhythm & Dance
SOCORRO, N.M. April 2, 2013 – “Street Beat,” billed as an explosion of urban rhythm and dance and featuring modern “street” choreography is bringing its rollicking, high-energy show to New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5.
The Performing Arts Series event coincides with the New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair, the semi-annual opening of Trinity Site to the public, and tours of the Jansky Very Large Array, all happening on Saturday, April 6.
“Street Beat will certainly appeal to the young Science Fair exhibitors and their parents, but the show will delight anyone who enjoys the experience of a live theatrical event,” Series Director Ronna Kalish said.
The performers use junk, household items and found objects for drums and percussion, and combine those rhythms with an infectious blend of African, Cuban, Latin, West African and jazz concepts to create a show that is as thrilling to watch as it is to hear.
To learn about the philosophy behind Street Beat, PAS asked the group’s founder and musical director, Ben Hansen, who was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and moved to Los Angeles in 2002.
“Dancing and drumming are surely the most ancient art forms of homosapiens, and they are absolutely wedded together, two sides of the same thing,” Hansen said. “The beat of the heart, running across the savannah, this is the primal expression of what it is to be alive for humans.”
Anyone who has ever watched a toddler bang away on pots and pans can appreciate Hansen’s story.
“I’ve been pounding on things almost since I came out of the womb,” Hansen said. “Family legend has it that I banged my head on a dresser as a baby, and instead of crying, I laughed and did it again,” he said.
“Another story about me is that I used to love thunderstorms, the louder, the better, Hansen continued. “I’d squeal with delight and yell back at the sky. But Danes aren’t generally known for being boisterous and loud.
“So, after disturbing the peace and taxing my neighbors’ patience for 24 years, I came to America, land of joyful noise,” he said.
For the performers, the audience is a key component of the experience, in feeding off each other’s energy.
“People go to the theater to be transformed, to feel renewed and connect on the deepest level with what it means to be a human being,” Hansen said.
The genesis of Street Beat was initially as a student outreach project for the Los Angeles Unified School District, designed to teach kids self-reliance and teamwork through drumming.
The challenge was that there was no money for drums.
According to Hansen, that’s how the teaching tool of “Repurposed Percussion” was born, based on the theory that one can make music with almost anything, which is exactly what Street Beat did.
The birth of Street Beat as a theatrical act began in 2007 when Hansen expanded the troupe to its current 10-piece configuration and took it on the road, touring all over the U.S., including Alaska.
“We take our drumming cues from cultures worldwide and mix them all into a gumbo of our own,” Hansen said. “I believe art should inform, but it also ought to taste good. One critic described us as ‘an urbanized journey through percussion,’ which sounds about right, but we’re also a tribal journey through the urban age.”
And right for any age.
Kalish shared several comments posted by fans online.
“One fan wrote he took his visiting parents to the show because it was the only thing playing that he wanted to see, but on the way to the performance, he began to have second thoughts,” she said. “As it turned out, Mom loved the choreography and Dad enjoyed the female dancers.”
Kalish shared this posting verbatim: “You dudes are so cool! Your show was so hot! Only gripe is all the old boomers had the good seats up front, and some even stood up and tried to dance. Not a pretty sight. Imagine watching your old man dance.”
The PAS last year was one of 153 not-for-profit organizations nationwide to receive a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Challenge America Fast-Track grant to support the Street Beat performance – the only one scheduled in New Mexico this year.
As part of the grant, and with additional support from the City of Socorro, the troupe will lead educational workshops, lecture-demonstrations and performances at schools in Magdalena, Alamo-Navajo and Socorro.
“Once again, let me stress the importance of outside funding for PAS performances,” said Kalish, fresh off a very successful Arts Party Adult Night on March 23. “Now, we just need to fill the house for the public performance!”
Other sponsors are Don and Rosie Tripp, the New Mexico Tech Student Government Association, Aerojet, Associated Universities, Inc. (NRAO), EMRTC and Best Western Hotel.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens 65 and over, and $10 for youths 17 and under. Special discounted prices for Science Fair visitors are $18, $16 and $8 respectively.
They can be purchased at the N.M. Tech Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up or at the door.
– NMT –
By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech