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River City Youth Ballet puts 'Music in Motion'

WANT TO GO?"Music in Motion"Presented by River City Youth Ballet Ensemble WHERE: Culture Center TheaterWHEN: 7 p.m. FridayTICKETS: Adults $12, seniors and children age 3 and up $8INFO: 304-925-3262 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- River City Youth Ballet isn't calling its new "Music in Motion" production a sequel to last year's "Poetry in Motion" so much as a spin-offArtistic Director Michelle Raider said, "Last year, with 'Poetry in Motion,' we used some West Virginia poets and even had some of them come and read during the show.""Music in Motion," which will be presented Friday night at the Culture Center, is a music and dance showcase that includes local dancers and live music. "We've got 10 pieces we'll be doing," Raider said. "The dance is a mix of classical, contemporary and abstract pieces. Some of them are original. We have a hip-hop piece, which might be something kids unfamiliar with ballet could relate to."Hip-hop instructor Kristen Pennington-Hackman choreographed the piece, "Young People, Big Problems." Hackman, who is also the director/owner of Dance Underground in South Charleston and the Elite Wildcatz Hip Hop Team, composed the dance with music by Eugene "E-Dub" Weems and lyrics by Jabbar K. Thomas.Hackman said putting the piece together was nothing unusual for her, but like every composition, it had some challenges. This time, it was the use of original music."We had to go through several beats until we found one that worked," she said. "But we got an original beat, and that's where things started to come together."
The beat came from Weems, a local hip-hop producer with big league connections, including rapper Lil Jon. Thomas said he's known Weems for years."We were lucky to get him," he said. "As far as local producers who can make a beat, they are few and far between. It's not just making a beat, but understanding how it adds up with the verses and chorus. A lot of people know music, but they don't understand it."
Weems, he said, gave them a professional foundation for the music, which Thomas, Hackman and local rapper Influ could build on to complete the piece. (Influ will perform the music live on Friday.)"He understood how to make a commercial beat."Raider said when they first started discussing "Music in Motion," she wanted to cast a wide net and bring in many different music styles."We got a lot of our musicians through the West Virginia Symphony and the youth symphony," she said. "We've worked with them and also with " target="_blank">Kanawha Valley Pipes and Drums. I wanted to get as many instruments as possible involved."Some of those instruments include a harp, drums and even bagpipes.Rehearsals, Raider said, took place over several months and went relatively smoothly, though working with so many live performers took time to get used to. She explained that the dancers needed to adjust to the change in how music sounded live versus recorded.
"The musicians might play a little faster [live] as they became more comfortable with their piece, as they knew it better," she said. "But everybody adapted very well, and I think it was good for our dancers to work with live music."In some ways, Raider said "Music in Motion" was an easier show to construct than a traditional ballet."It's not like a ballet," she said. "Usually, this time of the year, we do a shortened version of a ballet like 'The Snow Queen' or 'Cinderella,' and there's a whole story involved. You have to put the pieces together. These are individual pieces, and so it's maybe easier in that aspect."Naturally, Raider hopes the show is a success but wasn't sure if there was another spin-off to come."I don't know," she said. "Got any ideas?"Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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