African American dance

Vision 2020: Rachel Barreras-Kleemann

The Newport dance teacher says her goals are small: “To keep kids motivated to dance and to help kids that are lower income have a place they can go”

Editor’s note: This story begins a series of twenty interviews in twenty days with arts and cultural figures around Oregon, creating a group portrait of the state of the arts in the state. It looks at where we’ve been, where we are, and what might or should happen culturally in the 2020s.

*

Rachel Barreras-Kleemann grew up in Newport and began studying dance at the age of 11. After moving to  Portland for college, she grew interested in African-American and Afro-Brazilian dance, and signed on with the marching samba ensemble Lions of Batucada. She later moved to Brazil, where she pursued a technical degree in dance.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


Barreras-Kleemann, who is of Mexican and Native American descent, left the South American country after being mugged numerous times and realizing she had become frightened of the children who roved in gangs. “I thought, I want to be able to go home and help the kids I see, not fear them,” Barreras-Kleemann said. The mother of a baby girl, Barreras-Kleemann teaches dance to children and adults, many of whom are minorities and of low income.

Rachel Barreras-Kleemann says she wants to bring joy and encouragement to people who are fearful of doing arts. “People are tentative about celebrating themselves and about feeling good… I want to remind people it is good to feel joy and it’s still OK to be happy, even in these times that we’re living in.”
Rachel Barreras-Kleemann says she wants to bring joy and encouragement to people who are fearful of doing arts. “People are tentative about celebrating themselves and about feeling good… I want to remind people it is good to feel joy and it’s still OK to be happy, even in these times that we’re living in.”

What, good or bad, has had the biggest impact on arts and culture in your area in the past few years?

Continues…

Rennie Harris, moving pure

The hip-hop dance legend talks about his roots, black dance, and his group Puremovement's four shows this week at White Bird

By RACHAEL CARNES

According to Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, the three laws of hip-hop culture are “innovation, individuality and creativity.”

“Hip hop comes from the word ‘hippie,’ which means to either open your eyes or re-open your eyes — to be aware,” Harris says.

Kickstarted in the South Bronx as early as ’72 — at jams in parks, schools, community centers and clubs — and led by DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell, Afrika Bambaataa and Pete DJ Jones, the global phenomenon we’ve come to appreciate as hip hop has many progenitors, each adding his or her own original spin to graffiti, deejaying, b-boying and emceeing.

Harris is one of them.

Rennie Harris Puremovement’s “Lifted.” Photo courtesy Brian Mengini

Harris founded his dance company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, in 1992, and in ’96 I spent a week driving Harris and his entourage to outreach events around Seattle. Twenty years later, it’s fun to catch up with him by phone all the way from Japan, where he’s currently in artistic residence.

Continues…