Nov 14, 2014 View All News

Hip-Hop Meets Ballet in Panel at Newark Public Library


Thursday, November 20 at 6pm
Newark Public Library

Dance Theatre of Harlem Resident Choreographer Robert Garland and panelists discuss connections in dance from Russia to Balanchine to Harlem

Free and open to the public

NEWARK, NJ – (November 14, 2014) An expert panel will explore the relationship between neo-classical ballet and popular American and African-American culture during, From Russia to Balanchine to Harlem: Ballet and Hip-Hop, presented by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) at 6pm on Thursday, November 20 at the Newark Public Library, 5 Washington Street in Newark. Admission is free and open to the public. Dance Theatre of Harlem Resident Choreographer Robert Garland will participate in this fascinating discussion with other guest panelists.


“This is going to be a very exciting and illustrative conversation that will highlight the common ground existing between hip-hop and ballet,” said Donna Walker-Kuhne, NJPAC’s Vice President of Community Engagement. “These panelists are all experts in their field and will bring unique perspectives on the relevancy and future of these art forms. Offering events such as this, that aim to provide deeper connections for the public with various performances, is a core part of our mission at NJPAC’s new Department of Community Engagement.”


Garland said the discussion will explore the evolution of both dance genres. “Most successful artistic movements, like successful political-social movements, start from the bottom up, whether it be ballet or hip-hop,” stated Garland.


The panel will be moderated by hip-hop musician, producer and entrepreneur Bill Stepheney (Public Enemy), the speakers also include Jennifer Weber, founder and artisitic director of the all-female, hip-hop company Decadancetheatre, and Dister Rondon (aka Dister), an urban muralist and hip-hop dancer-choreographer.  The panel discussion precedes the upcoming December 5-6 performances of The Hip Hop Nutcracker, featuring guest MC Kurtis Blow and Dance Theatre of Harlem at NJPAC.


“The language of hip-hop is relatively young,” explained Weber of Decadancetheatre. “I think we are just beginning to understand the potential range of what can be said and understood with this global language of urban youth culture.”


To register for the From Russia to Balanchine to Harlem: Ballet and Hip-Hop panel email: [email protected] or visit:


For tickets to the The Hip Hop Nutcracker visit:


About Robert Garland

Robert Garland was a principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and is now Resident Choreographer. He has created works for the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company, and their School Ensemble. He has also choreographed for New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and Oakland Ballet, among many others.


After creating a work for the Dance Theatre of Harlem School Ensemble, Arthur Mitchell invited Robert Garland to create a work for The Dance Theatre of Harlem Company. Upon his retirement from the stage, he was appointed by Arthur Mitchell and became the organization’s first Resident Choreographer.


His commercial work has included music videos, commercials and short films, including the children’s television show Sesame Street, a Nike commercial featuring New York Yankee Derek Jeter, the NAACP Image Awards, a short film for designer Donna Karan, and the “Charmin Cha-Cha” for Proctor and Gamble.


About Dister Rondon (Dister)

Hip Hop is more than Dister Rondon’s culture and he represents it with pride. Dister makes it his priority to bring history, culture and integrity to those that are willing to learn. Raised in NYC, Dister still shares experiences with graffiti pioneers, Breakin' icons, legendary DJ's and giant MC's.  His classes and workshops cover many aspects surrounding (NY Style) Hip Hop Dance, Graffiti, Style, Emotion and its culture.  It is a learning process, generated from his experiences raised in NYC. He has seen how Hip Hop and other Street Styles have crossed over all kinds of boundaries.  The NYC nightlife has molded his skills around many styles starting with Mambo/Salsa and then branching out to Breakin', House, Hip Hop, Popping and Locking.


As a graffiti writer and muralist he has seen how the visual aspect has transcended into all kinds of media. Dister is a second generation member of the world renowned TATS cru. Graffiti legends, Mural Kings, his mentors and his roots play a significant role in how he artistically expresses what the culture means and in the content of what he teaches in his workshops.


About Bill Stephney

Best known for his successful marketing of the political rap group Public Enemy, Bill Stephney was an important figure of the 1980s and early '90s hip-hop world. Beginning his career as a musician, Stephney played a variety of instruments including trumpet, drums, violin, guitar and bass before switching over to deejaying in the late '70s.


While attending Aldelphi University in the early '80s Stephney met fellow student Chuck D. After forming his own popular radio show, the Mr. Bill Show, that brought the latest rap records to the station's audience, Stephney left the show to work at the College Music Journal. While there he established the journal's first hip-hop column, Beat Box, and attracted the attention of Def Jam Records co-owner Rick Rubin, who approached Stephney in 1986, offering the writer a position at Def Jam.


Stephney's first assignment was to sign a reluctant Chuck D who was convinced by Stephney to head the first political rap group, Public Enemy. Stephney produced the group's first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, playing guitar and bass on the record as well. In 1989 the talented executive left Def Jam to set up the SOUL label with Hank Shocklee. In 1992 Stephney abandoned SOUL to form his own venture, Stepson Music Entertainment, as a joint venture with Tommy Boy Records.


About Jennifer Weber

Jennifer Weber is the founder and artistic director of Decadancetheatre—an all-female, hip-hop, dance theater company based in Brooklyn. Weber will be directing and choreographing The Hip Hop Nutcracker December 5-6 at NJPAC. Trained in dance studios and nightclubs in NYC, Philadelphia, and London, Weber has always been a student not just of dance technique, but of the larger cultural meanings of urban movement.  As an artist, Weber seeks to explore hip-hop as the key emerging language of a global youth culture.   Since founding Decadancetheatre in the Summer of 2001, Weber has choreographed numerous original, evening-length, hip-hop ballets, and The DECA Crew has performed everywhere from Jacobs Pillow to MTV and has toured all over the US and abroad including The Women’s Arts International Festival in the UK (along side Patti Smith and Urban Bush Women), LEAP Festival, (Liverpool UK), B.Supreme Festival of Women in Hip-Hop (South Bank Center, London) and Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle (sharing the bill with Wu-Tang Clan, Fergie, Joss Stone and John Legend).


Weber has choreographed for Reebok, Dance Spirit Magazine, Dancers Responding to AIDS, the ACLU, Direct Effect (MTV), Beatstock (WKTU 103.5) Bloomberg, DJ Spooky, and Team Toshiba/National Basketball League of Japan. Weber also starred in Cheryl Dunn’s award-winning dance film, “Come Mute” which was showcased as part of the exhibit “Beautiful Losers” at Yerba Buena and Orange County Museum of Art. Weber’s own dance short, “Big City Lover” was shown as part of the Captured: Video Dance Series at Dance Theatre Workshop. Weber holds a BA in Communications (Cum Laude, 2000) from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a visiting artist at Mount Holyoke College. She has also taught all over the US, UK and Japan. In addition, Weber has been featured in XXL, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine and American Theatre and on CBS This Morning.


About the Newark Public Library

The Newark Public Library is the largest municipal library in New Jersey with a collection of more than 1.5 million books, audio and visual materials, and unique collections of prints, photographs, and historical documents. The historic Main Library is at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark. The seven branches serve as neighborhood anchors in the City. Among the many free resources offered to the community throughout Newark are assistance with employment searches, cultural programs and films, exhibits, book signings, business research, and other events for adults and children. As it celebrates 125 years of innovation and service, the Library remains a vital part of the civic and cultural fabric of Newark.



The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is among the largest performing arts centers in the United States and is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey – where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day.  NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the State’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city.  Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts.  NJPAC has attracted nearly 9 million visitors (including more than 1 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.  Visit or call 1-888-GO-NJPAC for more information.