MIAMI — Growing up in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts, Jennifer Weber was shy and saw dance as a way to express herself. Despite a love of dance, Weber did not awaken her love of hip-hop until she attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After graduating in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in Communications, she moved to New York and immersed herself into the hip-hop culture and club scene.
Inspired by the female hip-hop dancers, Weber created
a dance group called Decadancetheatre, which will perform at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Feb. 3 and 4. Weber serves as the company’s artistic director, choreographer, and manager.
“The two main goals of (Decadancetheatre) are to change the images of women in hip-hop and to push the language of hip-hop in new directions,” said Weber, 33, a 12-year resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Deca is about showing the beauty in hip-hop dance, rather than the boasting style of hip-hop. Taking away the aggression and looking where the music can just speak for itself and seeing the power in that.”
Decadancetheatre’s most notable difference from other hip-hop dance groups is that all of the dancers are female.
The dancers (Adaku Utah, Ann-Sylvia Clark, Casandra “Defy” Rivera, Lucile “Frak” Graciano, Megan “Megz” Alfonso, Nadia Lumley, and Taeko Koji) hail from Nigeria, Japan, Norway, France and the United States.
“I think that’s where Deca is strongest; showing the range in the movement of hip-hop and the many different ways you can use it,” said Weber, who has turned her first form of expression into a career as a dancer and choreographer for Reebok, Dance Spirit Magazine, Pras of the Fugees and has worked with Tony Award winner George Faison.
Audience members attending the Miami performances will get to see three of the company’s major works: The Cage, When the Sky Breaks 3D and The City Breathing.
Weber describes When the Sky Breaks as a piece with the many waves of different emotions that can be expressed in hip-hop.
Deca is also about reaching out into the community. During the matinee showing on Feb. 4, audience members will see a collaboration between Decadance and the students of the Young Women’s Preparatory Academy in Miami, as a part of Deca’s workshop series.
“We really enjoy working with young people and getting into the community,” said Weber about her Decadance-theatre’s international workshop series. “The more we can interact with the community, the more we can inspire people and bring people together and make the community stronger.”
When asked which hip-hop group inspires her the most and represents her values regarding hip-hop, Weber named The Roots without hesitation.
“The Roots really embodies what hip-hop is. When you see them onstage, they have all of these different instruments and each artist in the band really brings their own unique voice and all together they’re stronger than any one individual. You can’t help but want to dance when you hear their music.”
INTO THE FUTURE
Weber’s vision for Deca-dancetheatre has always been to “push hip-hop into the future” and add to the legacy that started in the Bronx, N.Y., in the 1970s.
“We’re representing from all different parts of the world. It’s so amazing that you can have people who grew up in all of these different countries and still grew up on hip-hop,” said Weber about the genre and Decadancetheatre.
“The reason hip-hop is so popular still is that so many people want to participate. And so many voices continue to be added to that culture.”
Photo: Jennifer Weber