As American Jews, it isn’t often that we are confronted with questions about privilege and appropriation of other cultures. Or break dancing. This weekend, Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council, will debut its 11th artist salon season with lively dance and conversation about Jews pushing boundaries in urban art forms.
The first salon, titled Breaking Free, will feature acclaimed break dancer Lisa “MonaLisa” Berman and her dance company BRKFST. Berman will be joined onstage by musician and social activist Adam Levy. As moderator, Levy will offer insights into the cultural and historical context of Berman’s work while inquiring into her creative process.
A native of St. Paul, Lisa Berman has attracted considerable attention for her innovative approach to break dancing. She’s the recipient of a 2016 McKnight Dance Fellowship and has received a Jerome Travel and Study grant.
BRKFST, founded in 2014, is one of the only dance companies in the United States to take break dancing into a theatrical space. As a collective, the BRKFST members bring their distinct voices and backgrounds into their collaborative choreographies, merging break dance with martial arts, burlesque, and other contemporary dance vernaculars.
“We always celebrate the roots of break dance,” Berman says. “But our goal is to do something new—to bring breaking to the same table as ballet, jazz, and modern.”
Adam Levy, best known for his work with The Honeydogs, is fascinated by the longstanding Jewish love affair with African-American music.
“I see Lisa’s dance as part of a longer tradition in American Judaism and African-American art. It has been a history of borrowing and a history of kind of mixing together things and creating something new,” he said. “I think what you’re gonna get is an artist description of [Berman’s] process and aesthetic and sort of philosophical angle on the work that she’s created during her lifetime.”
Throughout the salon, Levy will provide commentary about the history that comes along with Berman’s art—as well as his own.
Especially in light of today’s political climate, Levy emphasized the importance of identifying and combatting cultural appropriation, or “cultural theft,” and as Jews, how to recognize the privilege of white Americans when we borrow aspects of other cultures and incorporate them into art.
Jews have always been at the forefront of civil rights, he said, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be aware of the power and influence we have in society.
“How can you be kind of woke and enlightened about this process and do it in a way that is respectful to the authenticity of the art form and history of the people who created it while creating and doing something that contributes to kind of an artistic dialogue?” Levy said.
Rimon’s artist salon Breaking Free: BRKFST Dance Company @ JSB TEK BOX is on Sunday, November 5 at 1 p.m. Get more information and reserve a seat here.