Urban Artistry mixes culture, stirs Folk Festival crowd

Junious Brickhouse (left) dances his solo during the Dance House portion of the Urban Artistry group during the American Folk Festival at the Penobscot Stage Stage Saturday. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
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Junious Brickhouse (left) dances his solo during the Dance House portion of the Urban Artistry group during the American Folk Festival at the Penobscot Stage Stage Saturday. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
Posted Aug. 28, 2010, at 6:21 p.m.

House music and dance group Urban Artistry of Washington, D.C., brought Bangor an exciting cultural mix through movement and beat during their show “A House That Jack Built” at the sixth American Folk Festival.

It was the groups’ first time traveling to Maine to deliver their message: “If we can dance together, we can live together.”

Urban Artistry Founder and Director Junious “House” Brickhouse from Washington, D.C., brought with him eight of the groups’ dancers, who also are vocalists, actors, DJs and musicians.

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“It’s a different crowd, and what we’re presenting is definitely outside the norm,” said Brickhouse before their first performance on the Penobscot Stage at 1 p.m. Saturday. “But we have a great crowd and we’re going to work hard for them.”

Urban Artistry, which performs and educates, came to Bangor with a goal: to bring understanding to people who aren’t familiar with house music and dance — to bring “cultural enlightenment,” said Brickhouse.

House music and dance began in Chicago in the early 1980s and quickly spread to New York. House music is a combination of jazz, R&B, disco and other music. And house dance is a combination as well, blending aspects of African, salsa, capoeira, funk and Caribbean dance to create movement unique to the dancer.

To a full tent, show narrator Emily Wessel explained the cultural and historical significance of each jump, spin, melody and footwork segment.

“It’s a requirement that everyone in the company, even the administrators, have to dance, and I’m not exempt from that,” said Brickhouse, who took to stage to demonstrate popping, a funk style of dance that originated in California in the 1970s.

“I’m just pumped after that,” said vocalist and dancer Sophie Richard (artist name Soph-eye) from Montreal, Quebec, when she shimmied off the stage after their first performance.

“This place is amazing,” said dancer LaTasha Barnes of Richmond, Va. “It’s a ginormous festival. This one just seems a little more intimate for some reason. Maybe because the whole town is here.”

“This is my first time in Maine. I’m just excited,” sad Brickhouse. “It’s different when you go to a place for a particular purpose. To know people are getting together for this cause — I wouldn’t miss it. These are the places I want to be.”

For information about Urban Artistry, visit www.urbanartistry.org.

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