Monday, August 20, 2012


Adding a New Ingredient... The Illest!

The Illest Ingredient is a regular monthly jam that Urban Artistry has held, most recently in a partnership with U Street Music Hall.

The jam is an opportunity for dancers of all styles to interact and be inspired by one another. The Illest Ingredient has been the mixing of genres, styles, music, beats, and locations. People come from all over the East Coast, and from other countries to compete against dancers with different backgrounds. From Virginia to Sweden and New York to France, the dancers who have entered The Illest Ingredient Battles are diverse! We have had club heads up against choreo heads, popping vs. waacking, and the person who is battling for the first time up against people who have battled in their own communities.

But what is the "illest" ingredient?

What makes these battles so interesting? Is it the joy of battling someone who interprets the music completely different from yourself... a freaking of different beats.. a mix of different genres. Maybe it's like the recipe for grandma's 7-Up cake.. a dash of this.. a hint of this, a dollop of something sweet.. something different every time, so that the mix of ingredients is never the same, but it is always just as good.

While the main ingredient of The Illest Ingredient has been dance, Urban Artistry is about to shake it up!

This week, we are hosting not only Illest Ingredient the all-styles battle at U Street Music Hall on Friday, August 24th, but we are adding not one, but two totally new ingredients...wait for it..... SKATING and ART.
That's right! Urban Artistry is doing it up at a skate park again! Remember the closing day of International Soul Society Festival...FLOW?! There was skating, parkour, graffiti, and dance... and there was that je ne sais quoi! It was that perfect combination of forces and physicality. Now, on August 25th, not only are there a bboy battle ($200 prize) and an all styles battle ($200 prize), but there is also a Best Trick Skating contest.

This month, there are two Illest Ingredients! The first all styles jam is on Friday, August 24th at U Street Music Hall. We have to let the next one marinate overnight. On Saturday, August 25th, Urban Artistry hosts The Illest Ingredient at Wakefield Skatepark in Annendale, VA from 5-11pm.

At this all ages event, there will be live painting on skate ramps and walls by Vice Versa, John Rivers, and
 Lightup! Art Under Pressure and 3 Pyramids will be there! There will be music by DJ Baronhawk Portier and DJ Mate Masie.

All ages and levels are welcome. If we each bring an ingredient and mix it all together in open cyphers and friendly competition, we will make something special!... 

And as if that isn't enough.. we have a some surprise dessert: An Afterparty at Love Lounge. See you there... and if you can't be there, make sure your are mixing up something good at home and we'll see you next time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Influences by Johnte Cunningham

Johnte is an Urban Artistry performer.
Many musical influences have had a big impact on my life. Through music, style , dance etc. My musical taste is heavily influenced by the music I heard when I was a kid watching MTV. It was a mixture of Rock/Punk and Hip-Hop/R&B.   As I got older and started to meet new people who soon became my friends, they were listening to music I’d ever heard of. They introduced me to different producers and DJ’s so I got into different kinds of music like Prefuse 73 , Nujabes and DJ Shadow.
Nujabes is best known for his approach to hip hop beats, often blending jazz influences into his songs creating a mellow, nostalgic and atmospheric sound.
His genre-bending works of art merge elements of funkrockhip hopambientjazzsoul, and used-bin found records.
I blended everything together once I got my iPod. At the time I felt like I was the only kid in my neighborhood listening to this kind of music due to the influences of people who had other tastes.  The diversity in my taste in music had a domino effect and influenced my dancing on a more creative note. I had influences from the sounds I heard, the lyrics, the style of the artist and story. That’s what I love the best... because with all of that, there will never be a dull moment.
I’m a big melting pot of everything I’ve encountered, heard, seen or done.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How far can folk reach?

This week, Urban Artistry’s Executive Director, Junious Brickhouse, is teaching hip hop and house dance classes in Elkins, WV.   

Junious was awarded the honor of being named a Maryland Master through Maryland Traditionsa partnership with the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Historical Trust in 2009 for his work with Desmond Howard and other apprentices through Urban Artistry. He understands the importance of urban dance styles being recognized and included in folk dance intensives.  For house dance especially, the movement and culture is clearly a descendent folk dance culture. Urban Artistry has found great opportunity and collaborative spirit working with genres that relate to house dance, such as Appalachian flat-footing, West African Traditional, Lindy Hop and Tap.

The convergence for Dance Week at Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College is a key place not only for its deep commitment to preserving regional folk cultures, but also because it is part of a University that prides itself in doing just that. The Augusta Heritage Center’s mission is to encourage the wider understanding and practice of artistic expression found in local, regional, and ethnic traditional folk cultures.  

In the past year the relationship between Good Foot Dance Company and Urban Artistry, has grown tremendously. Urban dance and percussive folk dances are working together now, more than ever and these two groups are at the front of the line for that collaboration. 
In order to get a better understanding of the work that is being created through the sharing of folk dance cultures, master/ apprenticeship relations and collaborative projects, take a look at the spotlight Interview of Mr. Brickhouse by journalist Michael Lipin of Voices of America.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Urban Artistry Goes to Artland

The summer months for Urban Artistry means more barbecues, outside jams, sweat, and of course opportunities to connect directly with local neighborhoods within our community.   

We continue our work in NE Washington, DC  by participating in yet another art festival---Artland.  

Artland is a 12 week public art celebration offering free cultural events and promoting creative expression. The events are housed in temporary art spaces (Temporiums), animating public areas and this time revitalizing two vacant store fronts in the Monroe Street area on NE Washington, DC.  

Artland is presented by Dance Place with guest curators from all over the creative community. 

These events will be going on until August 26, 2012.

At Dance Place just a few blocks away, one of our Apprentice Artistic Directors, Desmond Howard drummed for an African Dance class with Coyaba Dance Theater, while others from Urban Artistry gathered at Island Jim’s to perform our educational performance and workshop, Surviving the Times. 

One family brought their 70 year old aunt to celebrate her birthday. She danced with UA and taught us a thing or two!! The audience was especially excited when we played funk music and at the end of the show one woman thanked us for not just doing the dance, but for really going into the history and heritage behind the steps.

This moment in the show stands out, because it really speaks to our mission. 

Nick, an Assistant Operations Director for Urban Artistry and Martial Arts specialist in Chinese Kung Fu, reflects on the importance of creating a living history and archive for our movement.

“Events like this are important, because without the continual refreshment of arts, their respective histories would be lost. The last person who knows how it's taught may pass on and all that remains are their stories.  It is important to keep it going with demonstration, as well as the story. One of the special things about Urban Artistry‘s participation in cultural heritage events is that they are keeping alive traditions that are often 500 or 600 years old. For example, Capoeira, is the descendant of what enslaved Africans in Brazil were doing to hide their fighting discipline and preserve their culture. The same holds true with Shaolin Kung Fu, there is a story there, a story of  thousands of years of struggle and cultural preservation.”

Urban Artistry is committed to keeping the roots and heritage of urban dance forms fresh in the heart of everyone we encounter. One way to reach this goal is to continue bringing a cultural perspective to up and coming arts neighborhoods, like the Monroe Street section of NE Washington, DC.