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-FEBRUARY 15 & 16

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Once, during my college days, my friend Sarah and I were dancing outside, doing a funky box step, when the African literature professor pulled us aside. “How did you learn that?” she exclaimed, to which we shrugged dumbly. “Did you know that’s a dance the girls do in my village back home?” How a black girl from California and a Jewish girl from Philly ended up doing a traditional Nigerian dance together is a story that can’t be told in just a few words. You can go into dance clubs all over the city and see fabulous dancers who have never taken a formal class in their lives or studied the West African roots of American popular dance working their bodies in ways that date back to antiquity. Choreographer and Pure Movement company director Rennie Harris, known for blending hiphop and modern dance, showcases this untapped wealth of dance talent during this weekend’s “Hiphop Festival” at Dance Place. Last October, Harris auditioned dancers at Tracks, McKinley High, Model Secondary School for the Deaf, and Kettering Middle School. He has spent the past few months traveling back and forth doing residencies at area schools and working with the lead dancers from the auditions to pull together an exciting show that will feature Washington-area groups, solo freestyle dancers, and a special performance by Harris and Pure Movement (pictured). Harris’ philosophy is that “each hiphop dancer is a choreographer in his or her own right. We create movement and style that represents our individuality first….The power of African movement remains with us across the centuries, no matter how far we are physically from the Motherland.” At 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE. $12. (202) 269-1600. (Holly Bass)