8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11
Where: Barbara B. Mann, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers
Information, reservations: (239) 481-4849 or www.bbmannpah.com
FORT MYERS — Forget everything you think you know about hiphop music and dancing. Suspend your judgment, sit back — for as long as you can — and get ready to see a performance that will revolutionize the way you think about dance, music and live performances. Groovaloo, the hiphop musical sensation, has bounded off Broadway for the first time in 2010, and it’s starting its tour at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on Jan. 11.
“It’s a very accessible show. Everyone can see it and enjoy it. I’ve seen, kids, their parents and their grandparents watching it together,” says co-creator Bradley Rapier.
“The biggest mistake everyone makes is thinking about hiphop artists as rappers. They are not.”
No belligerent lyrics and deafening beats here —the music Rapier and his crew of Groovaloos dance to is upbeat and contemporary, just like their show. The 90-minute performance is packed with energy, spectacular dance moves and what Rapier hopes to be a powerful message: “There are moments in your life when you simply have to trust and continue to move forward when you have absolutely nothing prepared or seemingly nothing to offer.
“That’s freestyle. That’s Groovaloo.”
Freestyling, grooving ad hip hop dancing weren’t Rapier’s first loves. He was born and raised in Calgary, Canada, from a family who were academics. Science and school were of the upmost importance. “We were the only black family in the neighborhood. I was the only black kid in school. Hiphop wasn’t popular there yet and there wasn’t much of a cultural scene. So I was into sports. And science,” he says.
Rapier also enjoyed skiing and skateboarding, just like the other kids, and wanted to grow up to be a doctor, just like his father. He also inherited a keen interested in jazz from his father, who owned one of the biggest jazz record collections in the country. But it would still take years for hip hop, and dancing, to become part of Rapier’s destiny.
In his junior year, Rapier saw a student at a school dance doing what at the time he could only describe as “something really different.” It was the first time Rapier had seen street dancing, but he was instantly smitten with the fluid, almost magical moves. The two became quick friends and started a street dance group with a third friend called StreetScape. The project only lasted a couple of years, but it helped make them, and street dancing, popular all through Canada. Rapier, however, was still thinking about a career in medicine.
The turning point was a first place prize at the Canadian Talent Search of 1989, where winning emboldened Rapier to venture to Los Angeles and New York. It wasn’t easy, but Rapier was determined, and winning numerous choreography awards opened doors for him. By the late 90s, he had worked and choreographed with names such as Queen Latifah, Miley Cyrus, Brian McKnight, Diana Ross and Fat Boy Slim.
It was about at that same time that the Groovaloos were born, as a low-key get together on Rapier’s rooftop in L.A. Young dancers would play some music, show each other moves and learn others every Thursday night. It wasn’t even a class in the proper sense of the term. This was more of a weekly rendezvous for people who wanted to, as Rapier puts in, “groove together.”
As their bonds tightened, their dancing styles and careers refined and grew bigger and better. Rapier began to dream of a way showcase their passion for dance for a larger audience.
“I wanted people to get a glimpse of what dance had done to me. I wanted them to sense it and know about it,” he says.
While shooting an instructional video with the other Groovaloos, Rapier asked the other dancers to tell the camera what dance meant to them. It was supposed to be extra footage, but the answers were so powerful and so important, he decided it would be a great base for a stage show that would offer the stories, personalities and passions of these fantastic dancers.
Putting it together without succumbing to excess either way was a lot of hard work for Rapier and cowriter Danny Cistone, Rapiere says.
“My vision of street dance was a positive, magical thing and I wanted people to see that street dancing is joyous and positive. I wanted all that, but I didn’t want it to be cheesy or corny,” he says. Also, their show was so different and so outside the box, they had a hard time formatting it for a stage.
“Groovaloo is a hybrid. It doesn’t fit a formula. It’s part musical, part theater, part pure dance. And because dance is a metaphor for life, you don’t have to be a dancer to enjoy the show. The stories are real. They are stories that everyone can relate to.”