For Jennifer Weber, performing on stage is the moment she feels the most alive, when she can say anything without having to think about it. Finding her voice through hip-hop and dance, she began to develop a conversation she couldn’t express with words.
“I was just really inspired by club culture and the idea of communicating through a physical language. I was really, really shy when I was a kid and I didn’t like talk to anyone,” Weber said. “But I found so much freedom in a nightclub where I could just move and I could speak without using verbal language.”
Weber is artistic director and choreographer of Decadancetheatre of Brooklyn, New York, an all-female dance company she started in 2004.
Her latest project, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, will feature some of the women of Decadancetheatre and other hip-hop dancers. The show will be performed Saturday and Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
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The full Tchaikovsky score took her five weeks to choreograph, and rehearsals lasted up to eight hours a day. The program grew from a 10-minute performance to its second year of a full 90-minute production including legendary rapper Kurtis Blow and electric violinist Mathew Silvera.
At Sunday’s 2 p.m. show, there will be 35 high school students from Arthur & Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts leading the matinee performance.
Jairo Ontiveros, the Arsht Center’s director of education and community engagement, and his team head education programs such as the Arsht Goes to School and the Step Into Dance master class series program, in which students and people in the community are paired up with artists who work in the field for free.
Ontiveros, who also has an artistic background, said programs like these helped him reach the path he is on today and has experienced first hand how art impacts the students lives.
“Education and community engagement is a center point of the Arsht Center’s mission,” Ontiveros said. “Using art creates powerful changes in the kids. They gain more confidence and when they see other professionals in the field they feel they can also turn a passion into a career.”
Weber agrees and said the strength of her company lies in the youth and is looking forward to learning from the students as well as helping them perfect their moves.
“ I feel like it’s imperative to teach and to share,” Weber said. “The youth is the future, and if you don’t share what you learn it just dies. That’s the beauty [of dance] it’s a dialogue, it’s not one way.”
For Weber, Decadancetheatre signified a larger representation of women in hip-hop and an opportunity to create strong female role models for young women.
“I felt the voice of women in hip-hop was not loud enough. You would see women in hip hop, especially in music videos 10 years ago and the boys did the breaking and the girls did the sexy move next to them and I thought that was ridiculous,” said Weber, whose first dance crew was called Strictly Funk.
“There were so many girls doing such powerful dancing but they just weren’t given the opportunity to showcase that in any sort of commercial or public way. You would only see that in clubs. I really wanted to create an opportunity for these amazing female artists to put their voice out there.”
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If you go
▪ What: The Hip Hop Nutcracker
▪ When : 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6
▪ Where: Carnival Studio Theater, Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd.
▪ Tickets are $45 each. To purchase, visit www.arshtcenter.org.