30 Nov 2016
Raphael Xavier, 2013 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.
Raphael Xavier, 2014. Photo by Brian Mengini.
Raphael Xavier, Raphfreeze, 2015. Photo courtesy of Raphael Xavier.
Raphael Xavier. Photo by Brian Mengini.
"Without the next step, or the realization that something exists outside of the one-dimensional hip-hop world, [breaking] will never reach the potential it's meant to reach."
Raphael Xavier (b. 1970) has practiced "breaking," an acrobatic street dance style commonly known as breakdancing, since 1983. An alumnus of the groundbreaking hip-hop dance company Rennie Harris Puremovement (led by 1996 Pew Fellow Rennie Harris), Xavier is developing a new dance vocabulary that follows in breaking's traditions yet can be sustained for a lifelong career. "As the current state of [breaking] is full of energy, improvisation, and showmanship, it lacks the skills and understanding of substance and sustenance," Xavier says. In order to move forward and take breaking to a new level, Xavier has sought out opportunities for artistic collaboration. He developed his most recent work, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance, under the mentorship of award-winning choreographer Ralph Lemon. This autobiographical and introspective performance piece, which received a 2012 discovery grant from the Center, follows a maturing hip-hop dance practitioner—a reflection of Xavier's own career. In 2013, Philadelphia's Painted Bride Art Center exhibited Xavier's No Bicycle Parking, a collection of over 400 photos taken over a 10-year period. In 2015, Xavier received Center support to present Raphstravaganza: An Urban Kinetic Experience, a contemporary circus-style performance featuring street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music by saxophonist and composer Bobby Zankel.