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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

(Hammer)step to the beat

Hammerstep performs passionately in Roberts Theatre. Photo by Saw Min Maw.

On Monday, Jan. 27, Grinnell was fortunate to receive Hammerstep, a group of innovative dancers, as part of its Public Events Series. Garrett Coleman, the co-founder of the group, said that Hammerstep was initiated with the objective of giving youths a “sense of social justice” and that he believed dance is a means to “make statements” rather than to entertain. In order to fulfill this vision, Hammerstep has combined various dance forms that were originally conceived by marginalized or oppressed groups, such as Irish, tap, hip-hop and African-American stepping.

In addition, all of Hammerstep’s performances are accompanied by an impressive system of lighting and live music—two factors that greatly help the artists convey the social activist themes of their work. When asked how the group managed to combine so many diverse art forms, Dave Eggar (the cello player of the crew) said that, because all these art forms “speak in the same language” and thus easily engage in a “dialogue,” they may become much more powerful than when each is considered separately.

Hammerstep was formed in 2009 in Brooklyn, N.Y. and has since been contributing their personal vision to the world of dance. Their unique approach to art has taken them all around the world, including New York City’s Lincoln Center, the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the U.K.’s Palace Theatre. Hammerstep also received the opportunity to perform on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. However, the group’s amazing success—especially when considering its fairly recent creation—is not much of a surprise when one takes a look at the career accomplishments of the two leaders of the group, Coleman and Jason Oremus.

Indeed, Coleman has experience with many different forms of dance—including hip-hop, tap and contemporary—and has won two world titles in Irish competitive dance. Additionally, Coleman has toured as a member of Riverdance and the Trinity Irish Dance Company. Oremus (originally from Sydney, Australia) has also won numerous national Irish dancing titles and performed in the 2000 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Holding the lead male role with Riverdance, he has also performed in numerous countries around the world.
Given these impressive resumés, it was not surprising that Hammerstep’s performance at Grinnell was a thrilling experience. The show opened with Youssef Kromah, who sang a song that truly touched the audience through its lyrics. The song conveyed a deep understanding of issues of race and oppression—themes that were complemented by the artists’ powerful and energetic expression in their dance. All this was accompanied by a live band composed of both acoustic cello and piano, and a drum set. The harmonious effect of the combination was powerful.

Coleman, Oremus and their crew gave a wonderfully explosive performance. Their impressive footwork and perfectly synchronized dance movements worked hand in hand with the live DJ and band, giving even more significance to the striking visual effects, innovative lighting and advocacy for social justice.

Hammerstep performs passionately in Roberts Theatre. Photo by Saw Min Maw.
Hammerstep performs passionately in Roberts Theatre. Photo by Saw Min Maw.
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