09 Jul Creative Pick!: 5 Questions for Raphael Xavier (DC HHTF Edition)
The DC Hip Hop Festival takes place in the city July 7-July 14 this year, and we figured what better way to show our support than tap a few of the festival’s featured Creatives in our 5 Questions series. Here we go! Meet Raphael Xavier. He is an award winning artist from Wilmington, Delaware who is credited for the resurrection and the growth of the Breaking community in Philadelphia from 1996 to present day. As a member of the world renown Hip Hop Dance Company, Rennie Harris Puremovement since 1998, Raphael is a Pennsylvania Fellow of the Arts in Folk and Traditional forms and has been funded by the Independence Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He has been a professional breaker/dancer for the last 15 years, working in a variety of fields including Music, photography and film. A self taught Hip Hop dancer and Breaking practitioner since 1983, Raphael continues to learn and recreate new ways to expand the vocabulary of the dance form through constant research of the culture, performance and practice, staying present in the community and traveling to locate the originators of the form to get first hand knowledge. As usual, Kat hit him with five questions. Check out his answers.
Risikat Okedeyi: Tell me a little bit about your craft. How long have you been dancing? When did you realize that you wanted to dance as a professional?
Raphael Xavier: I am a Breaker. Known as break-dancing, I have been practicing the form since 1983. Initially, I didn’t have a desire to be a dancer of any kind. I thought I was going to be a famous rapper or photographer. I actually came pretty close too. I still enjoy rapping and photography and include them in the new work, The Unofficial Guide. As far as when I knew that breaking would be my focus, I started working with Rennie Harris Puremovement in 1997 and that was when I felt an attraction to the stage and theatre. Everything grew from there.
RO: How has the dance aspect of Hip Hop changed or transformed in the past five years? Are there any trends or styles that you think are especially compelling?
RX: Hip Hop dance has become a major interest since the popularity of the reality/competition dance shows. It’s what people/hip hop dancers are aspiring to be and consider that to be ‘Making it’. So they want to take on every possible dance style to be versatile. There is nothing wrong with that but the time that it takes to be strong at one of them is cut drastically. Every thing is fast moving and has an aerobic-cheerleading aesthetic. The training though is still intense so the style of the individual stands out more. Flexibility and creativity of the individual begins to push the ideas and concepts through the roof. That’s what I look for in hip hop dancers now that keep me on my toes; literally.
RO: The showcase you are featured in for this year’s Hip Hop Theatre Festival is called “Jack Ya Body”, how does the title connect to what the audience will see on performing night?
RX: I’ll let the audience figure that one out. Let them make the connection. This particular work is about the audience being a part of the performance. I’m not telling them what it is or what to get from it…it will be what they put in that will allow them to take away something and make the connection by being able to relate to the work. But the obvious-being silly-is that our bodies will be jacked up if you don’t condition to be able to do what I do. And also if you condition right you will have a body that is in shape. What people like to call Jacked.
RO: How do you maintain the grittiness of the Hip Hop dance form?
RX: I don’t think it will ever go anywhere. The grittiness is what gave the movement and the culture it’s texture. I carry that with me everywhere I go and on every stage I dance on. It’s embedded in me. Even when it looks soft, the approach and intent will always remain gritty.
RO: Do you have any rituals or practices that you engage before hitting the stage? How do prepare?
RX: I don’t eat before performances. LOL! I can’t for some reason. I know it’s not a great thing to do but I’m always nervous before a show. I just go over the movement and words in my head again and again up to the second I walk on stage. RHPM does a piece called Asphalt Jungle where we perform topless and that also is still stuck in my head after 16 years. I don’t want to feel fat on stage and my stomach is hanging out. I’m sure that’s psychologically playing a part in my not eating before I go on stage. Preparation is all mental and that transfers physically. So if I’m feeling good mentally, I’m going to feel good physically.
Raphel Xavier will be featured at this year’s DC Hip Hop Theatre Festival as part of the Jack Ya Body Dance Showcase | Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13. For more information and tickets click here or call 202.269.1600. For more on Raphael check him out on Tumbler and Facebook.