Kumari Lohar-Singh puts her love of fashion design first, but you wouldn't know it from watching her dance. A Vancouver native, Kumari has spent the last two years in Philadelphia and New York in design school. While there, she developed her dancing skills by learning and practicing hiphop, breaking, locking, and more with such legends as Iladelph Flav, Moncell, Raphael Xavier, and Bronx Breaks Crew. Now, she's back in town for a few months; lucky for us, she's gonna teach what she knows. This Saturday and Sunday at the Sherwood Dance Academy, she'll host an in-depth training workshop on the ins and outs of foundation old-school hiphop, breaking, reggae dancehall, locking, house, and video hiphop.
"We'll do breaking, locking--which was formed in the '70s by Don Campbell, who couldn't do the funky chicken and came up with something totally different--dancehall reggae," says Kumari. "That's pretty much West Indian club dance, like what kids see in Sean Paul videos, but there's a lot more to it; there's a lot of ancestry in African dance."
In her classes, Kumari takes it upon herself to teach the history of the dances, rather than just instructing the steps. "Breaking, locking, house, popping, other forms of African dance--that's how hiphop dance started; the stuff we see in videos isn't necessarily hiphop dance. It's jazzy movements with funky, hiphop vibes and a couple break moves or something. When people start seeing that as the norm, they lose the history and foundation and structuring of what it actually is."
However, Kumari wanted to clarify she's not the end-all-be-all, and she's only teaching what she learned herself. "In no way do I try to glorify myself like I'm the best, because hiphop is a journey. There are people who are all up there like Rennie Harris, Don Campbell, Rock Steady Crew, who still consider themselves students. I just teach what I've learned."
If you're apprehensive about learning to break, never fear--Kumari stresses that hiphop is the great unifier, and everybody has to start somewhere. (Speaking from experience, the only thing you should really be scared of is how your ass muscles are gonna feel the next day.) "Hiphop is for everybody," she emphasizes. "It's not necessarily a Black thing or a Puerto Rican thing; it started out that way in the cities, but hiphop is a universal language. There are breakers and lockers in Japan and Finland. There are crews in South Africa. It's a unity thing and it brings everybody together. Even if we're not coming from the same place, if you know a top rock or a lock, it's like, all right, we're speaking the same language."
Alternately, you don't have to worry if you're not down with OBT (Oregon Ballet) or something. "I was reading an interview with Rennie Harris and he commented that hiphop dance is just an idea; it's all about the soul you put into it. When you start really articulating specific movements and worry about technique, it depreciates the art. You just have to do your own thing with hiphop." JULIANNE SHEPHERD
Sherwood Dance Academy, 105 NW Main, Sherwood, 625-8868, Saturday and Sunday, June 21-22, 10 am-6 pm, $75-150,
Kumari teaches at various outlets around town this summer, including Bally's and DeVine Funk. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drums and Puppets
With a spot on NPR's Morning Edition under its belt and an annual program of performance and outreach that extends to over 50,000 people, Portland Taiko is an amazing percussion ensemble on the move. Better see 'em now, before you're left in the dust.
For those not familiar with the Japanese jive, Taiko is the Japanese word for "drum," though Taiko as an art form is much, much more. Combining extreme athleticism, dance, and huge drums made out of wine barrels, the members of Portland Taiko run around the stage like Tasmanian Devils, switching instruments, twirling, and all the while beating out exhilarating rhythms with baton-like sticks.
This weekend, Portland Taiko's mesmerizing live show serves as the culmination of an extravaganza of Asian art and culture entitled, fittingly: ArtExplosion: a Showcase of Asian Pacific American Performing Arts. Performers include the always-interesting Vietnamese-American dancer Minh Tran, spoken word from the Asian American poet Lawson Inada, music from the Vietnamese guitarist Tinh, AND Beijing-style rod puppetry from the good folks at Dragon Art Studio.
If you can't find anything to entertain you on the spectrum from percussive titillation to puppets, well... then... there's always Blockbuster. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS
PSU's Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park, 790-ARTS, Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, $16.50
Reels Of Steel
You are here. You are visiting or living in one of the most creative cities in the world right now. Think about that for a moment okay? Okay. Now that we've established a sense of appreciation, let's exercise it. Tonight, for instance, you can appreciate live collaborations between teams of audio and visual masters like Bugskull songwriter Sean Byrne vs. Steve Doughton, or a more danceable, rhythm-oriented film and sound loop presentation from Zac Love vs. DJ Broken Window.
Some of the performances will be more crafted and prepared, while others might tend more towards improv, and will feature a variety of mediums. Live instruments will coincide with sound loops, records, and laptops. The visuals will range from digital cartoon creations (E*Rock vs. Strategy), to 16mm film projections (like Johnne Eschleman vs. Matt McCormick).
While all these arty mock battles ensue, the Sensualists' Philip Cooper's film installations will serve as a sort of live décor on Holocene's white walls, a space designed for just such spectacle. Particularly if you've not yet had the pleasure of exploring the latest addition to Portland's cultural pantheon, don't miss this chance, which is particularly suited to the elegant, simple vibe. And it's always fun to shake up the artists and watch them play. MARJORIE SKINNER
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, 239-7639, Thursday, June 19, 10 pm, $5