Dr. Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris
Hip-Hop Dancer, Choreographer, Founder and Artistic Director of Rennie Harris Puremovement & RHAW, National Ambassador of Hip-Hop
Internationally renowned hip-hop dancer and choreographer, Rennie Harris has traveled the world bringing street dance to the stage. The North Philadelphia native began teaching at the age of 15 at various schools and universities. He has since gone on to found internationally recognized and sought after dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement and his youth dance company Rennie Harris R.H.A.W. More recently, he was named as one of four artist to serve as an Ambassador of cultural exchange (Dance Motion) for President Barrack Obama’s arts initiative.
As a dancer and choreographer, what places in Philadelphia have significance to you?
Philadanco—this is history when it comes to Philadelphia in regards to Black dance. You definitely want to check these guys out when you come to Philadelphia. We are fortunate to actually rehearse at Philadanco, so we have to thank [Philandanco founder] Joan Meyers Brown for allowing us to be here.
Originally I started out as a street dancer [in North Philadelphia] with a group called the Scanner Boys, and we traveled the world. I started my company Rennie Harris Puremovement in ’92. We’ve performed for the Queen of England, princesses of Monaco. Currently, I’m serving as an ambassador for the United States of America.
What’s one of your favorite neighborhoods in Philadelphia?
One of my favorite spots is East Passyunk - South Philadelphia. I moved here about several years ago. I liked the area because you have all the restaurants here. They have personal touches on them. You have the nice street food market up the street, not too far. You have Rita’s Water Ice. I love water ice ‘cause that’s Philly. You got Geno’s. You got Pat’s. You have Jim’s. You know, R & J, all the cheesesteak spots that you ever want to have, right here in this neighborhood.
I live across the street of what we call the Singing Fountain. At night, it sings Frank Sinatra. My first night here, I thought I was dreaming. I was having a dream about Frank Sinatra. I woke up, and it happened to be the fountain. This is spot that a lot of local come to and chill out. So, it’s a nice neighborhood. It’s one of my favorite spots.
It’s an up and coming neighborhood, an up and coming Italian neighborhood, which is really nice. My name is Lorenzo, so I kind of fit in, in my own way. So, normally people are surprise my name is Lorenzo actually. My mom was raised in South Philly as a kid. So, I’m assuming there were some connections to that name. So, I sort of fit in. This is sort of like my Italian heritage, right here.
It’s a very a progressive neighborhood. Always changing, moving forward and its community based. The community is strong here. You can’t just come up in here and set up a business. You are going to have to go through the community of this neighborhood. They’re going make sure you are a right fit for them, as regards to keeping it simple. This is a very simple neighborhood. Mom and pop stores, restaurants and what have you—very good food. The best food I think, aside from the cheesesteaks, I think best food is down here. No disrespect to Center City, but you want to get some good food, come out down to East Passyunk.
One thing you have to remember, don’t say Pass-e-yunk because if you say Pass-e-yunk, they going to know you’re not from here. You have to say Pass’yunk. That’s how they know you from this neighborhood.
Where do you like to grab a bite to eat when you are home?
Black & Brew—this is my favorite restaurant in the whole place of South Philly. They’ve got the best food ever. My favorite thing on the menu is the Turkey Reuben. I get that most of the times that I come here. And, I get coffee. Their coffee’s the bomb.
When people come to Philly, what do you think they should definitely do?
When you get the chance to come to Philadelphia, you want to check out Philadanco. You want to check out Rennie Harris Puremovement and Rennie Harris R.H.A.W. You want to check out the Kimmel Center. You want to check out the Suzanne Roberts Theatre You want to check out the Wilma Theater, the Avenue of the Arts and Walk of Fame. Our cheesesteaks, our pretzels, our water ice—nobody can get down the way we get down in Philly.