Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, a 2020 Doris Duke Artist in the dance category, is considered the pioneer of street dance theater and a choreographer internationally known for creating a cohesive dance style, both staunchly rooted in and expanding the boundaries of hip-hop, that finds a cogent voice in the theater. Born and raised in an African-American community in North Philadelphia, in 1992 he founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop and street dance theater company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture and bringing these dance forms to the traditional stage. In 2012, Rennie Harris Puremovement was chosen to be part of DanceMotion USA, the Obama Administration’s U.S. Department of State cultural exchange program produced in partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as one of four companies to serve as citizen-diplomats to tour Egypt, Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan. His work “Rennie Harris Funkedified” (2018) is a multi-media dance creation that challenges audiences to reevaluate what they think they know as hip-hop dance and culture in a celebration of the street dance and funk music of the 1970s. Some of his other notable works include “Lazarus” (2018), “Lifted” (2017), “Straight Outta Philly” (2016), “Exodus” (2015) and “Heaven: A B-Girl Ballet” (2014).
Voted one of the most influential people in the last 100 years of Philadelphia history, Harris has been recognized with many awards and prizes, including three Bessie Awards, three Alvin Ailey Black Choreographers Awards, an Ethnic Dance Award, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for choreography, a nomination for a Lawrence Olivier Award (U.K.), a “Philadelphia Rocky” award, Governor’s Artist of the Year Award, a USA Fellowship and was voted one of Philadelphia’s Creative Ambassadors in 2010. He received two honorary doctorates in the Arts and Humanities from Bates College and in the Fine Arts from Columbia College Chicago.