Collage of color and black and white images.
All Styles Battle 2023; photos Cherylynn Tsushima and Jamie Kraus

50 years of innovation, cultural progression, and Blackness.

This summer, legends of Hip Hop ventured to the Pillow for a one-of-a-kind ‘festival within a festival’ –– Hip Hop Across the Pillow. The intergenerational line-up, an intentional decision by Associate Curators Ali Rosa-Salas and Melanie George, highlighted the breadth, depth, and interconnectivity of the cultural movement that is Hip Hop. The program featured artists who have helped forge the path of Hip Hop from the streets to the concert stage and back again. Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater, Rockefella and Kwikstep, d. Sabela Grimes and the Ladies of Hip Hop, Nefer Global Movement, The Hood Lockers, and KR3TS Dance Company, all brilliant within their craft and all keepers of the culture. However, this is just a small percentage of the artists who encompass Hip Hop within the dance field and what we’ve known to come of it. Sitting amongst the popular modern dance names, such as Mark Morris or Martha Graham, are several Hip Hop giants that have added to the artistic landscape and history of the form.

“It’s a big family reunion and homecoming all wrapped into one.”

Birthed in the streets, block parties, stoops, and rooftops of Bronx, NY, Hip Hop’s popularity and impact has surpassed the New York state lines. From New York to L.A., China to London, South Africa to Brazil, you’ll find numerous adaptations of the art form. What remains at the core –– Blackness. For the last 50 years, and under the guise of the Black community, Hip Hop has been the guiding light for all things pop culture. From music to fashion, television to film, literature to visual art, the movement is a major influence or rather the influence. Our world has become a little less black and white, and a little more vibrant with different colors, textures, and sounds. The culture can be experienced anytime, anywhere; there are no limitations to its existence nor its beauty. As Ali Rosa-Salas notes, “Hip Hop is iterative and expansive.”

Four Black women in vibrant costumes dance on a warmly lit stage.
The Ladies of Hip-Hop in d. Sabela Grimes’ “Parable of PassAge;” photo Cherylynn Tsushima.

Hip Hop Across the Pillow not only served as a prime example of Hip Hop’s expansiveness, but also how the people within are just one big family. It’s one thing to walk this path alone, but to walk it with people who care about the art form as much as you do makes it all the more worthwhile. The word community is continuously tossed around, but it still holds so much meaning within the Hip Hop community, and that was ever present during the week.

“Wassup, Bro.”
“Hey, Sis!”
“My guy.”
“Hey, love.”

All notes of endearment that show a sign of respect, acknowledgement, and belonging –– an unwritten but widely known rule within the Black community. Hugs are given in abundance, hands are dapped at every interaction, and cheeks are layered with kisses. It’s a big family reunion and homecoming all wrapped into one.

Group of people in a lively room doing a line dance.
All Styles Battle 2023; photo Cherylynn Tsushima.

“The culture can be experienced anytime, anywhere; there are no limitations to its existence nor its beauty.”

Like with any homecoming, you pay homage to those past and present, and this week of programming encompassed this and more. From the people who joined, to the styles showcased, to the stories shared, Hip Hop was represented. Hip Hop was celebrated. Hip Hop took over Jacob’s Pillow, and there is a strong hope that this will not be the last occurrence.

A dancer in white pants does an inverted headstand against a blue backdrop.
Joshua Culbreath in “Nuttin’ but a Word,” with Rennie Harris Puremovement American Street Dance Theater; photo Cherylynn Tsushima.

This Pillow Pick was written by Shanice L. Mason, and published on August 24, 2023.