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Philadelphia Hip-Hop Dance Choreographer & Performer Raphael Xavier Presents His Solo Rap and Breakdancing Performance

Philadelphia based, hip-hop dance choreographer, performer, lecturer and author Raphael Xavier–credited with re-invigorating the area’s breaking or b-boying (popularly known as breakdancing) community–will present a brief performance of his solo rap and breaking work The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance (TUGTAWP).  The autobiographical mixtape of words and dance, with direction and consultation by Ralph Lemon and poetry from featured artist Leigh Nelson, moves major hip-hop elements into a theater setting. Unofficial Guide is free to the public (very limited seating left) and takes place Friday, December 14, 2012, 8:30 -9:30 pm at Underground Arts at the Wolf Building, 1200 Callowhill Street (at North 12th Street).  TUGTAWP is part of a showcase at the National Performance Network Annual Meeting  being held simultaneously December 13-17 in the area.

The Unofficial Guide’s creation and presentation is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in cooperation with the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) though the National Dance Project (NDP) as well as by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Major funding for NDP is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation. Funding from the NEA provides support for choreographers in the early stages of their careers.

Rapping, Breaking Theater“I am pushing major hip-hop elements–MC-ing or rapping, breaking–into a theatre setting,” explains Xavier of his work. Unofficial Guide deconstructs his song and rap lyrics (written over the course of 20 years) as well as the Breaking art form and spins the audience through the 30-year, life-dance journey of a maturing, hip-hop artist. Instead of performing traditional rap, Raphael Xavier’s use of song and story cadences allows him to rap theatrically, conversation-style, between dance performances, all of which provides insight into what the performer is performing, as the title suggests.

According to critics, “Xavier transforms a bravado dance style into an introspective meditation,” says Brenda Dixon Gottschild.   And the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Rutter suggests that the work “explores the broader themes of artistic dedication as a total, almost ethical commitment across an entire life, captivating his audience with the impassioned lyrical delivery of a hip-hop artist.”

Says Raphael Xavier himself: “In 1995, I had an idea to take the rhyme cadences of rap and the art form of Breaking and put them on stage together in a way that was yet to be explored. After several successful dance experiments with ensembles and the experiences that came along with it, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance seemed to be the next perfect step as a soloist.”

“Were it not for the past,” he continues, “the timing would have been off and it could not have happened. It comes in perfect timing. My skill set as an artist gives me a lot to pull from and allows me to tailor every performance differently according to the theatre or the space. As a mature practitioner of the form, this work literally speaks for itself.”

Raphael Xavier is a professional breaker, dancer, rapper, music producer, comedian, photographer, author and multifaceted, award-winning artist.  Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Xavier is credited with the 1996-to-present-day resurrection and  growth of the Breaking community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he now resides.

Raphael Xavier, since 1983 a self-taught Hip-Hop dancer and Breaking practitioner, started choreographing dance with the Philadelphia-area’s Brandywine School of Ballet in 1995.  A member of the world renowned, Hip-Hop Dance Company, Rennie Harris Puremovement since 1998, Xavier is a Pennsylvania Fellow of the Arts in Folk and Traditional forms and has been funded by the Independence Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He has been a professional breaker and dancer for the last 15 years, working in a variety of fields including music, photography and film.  Raphael Xavier continues to learn and recreate new ways to expand the vocabulary of the dance form through constant research of the culture, performance and practice, staying present in the community. His work is based in the tradition of Hip-Hop Culture, moving in and out of reality and imagination. With an eclectic vocabulary and the ability to captivate any audience, Xavier’s approach to dance theatre takes on many directions and leads to a single, innovative performance.

All over the world, including at the Universities of California-Los Angeles and Wisconsin-Madison, among other institutions,  Raphael Xavier presents lectures and dance classes concerning Hip Hop culture and its history,  and has also shared his breaking techniques with none other than beloved media personality and artist Regis Philbin.  Xavier has nearly completed the manuscript for his book entitled Breaking Text–Defining of a Culture.

- Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded PhiladelphiaDANCE.org as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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