If Cities Could Dance


Philadelphia’s House Dancers Preserve the Soul of the Scene

The infusion of soul helps make Philadelphia house so distinct from its harder-edged Chicago, Detroit and New York counterparts. More than three decades later, a tight-knit, intergenerational community of house dancers, DJs and event producers in Philadelphia are still working, amidst commercialization and club closures, to keep the original underground spirit of the scene alive.

AIRED: October 05, 2021 | 0:09:26

[Kyle Clark] How y'all doing?

I'm Kyle Clark, aka JustSole.

[Dinita Clark] And I'm Dinita Clark, aka Queen Dinita.

[Kyle] We're here to share our love

of house dance, music, and culture

[Dinita] here in Philly with "If Cities Could Dance."

(minimal, atmospheric house with driving beats)

[Lee Jones] My first house party, it was the first time

in my life that I ever felt that I belonged somewhere.

[Imani Griffith] The origins of it with African

and all the other forms mixed into it,

tap, Latin.

There's a organic thing that happens with house.

[Kyle] The je ne sais quoi, it's flowy.

They're doing these dynamic footwork patterns.

It's literally the manipulation of time and space.

[Rennie Harris] In the very beginning, house was coming out

of the gay community.

Kids were in the clubs all night

'cause they had nowhere else to go.

[Marcus Branch] Being able to leave at all,

and just let my spirit take over.

[Dave Austin] They were family when we were out at these clubs,

and I think that's why

the house underground scene is so lasting.

(Old skool hip-hop grooves & funky b-lines)

(chill deep house)

[Dinita] To me, Philadelphia is special,

not only because I'm a Philadelphia native,

but Philly is very soulful, very eclectic.

Growing up, I always loved to dance.

It was a natural part of my childhood

and a part of my life.

But I was always searching for the education behind it,

longing for a connection to my roots.

House dance culture, that's where I went and grew.

I met Kyle, we were both students

at the University of the Arts.

[Kyle] We clicked right away.

I was getting a degree in, you know,

ballet and modern during the day,

and getting a degree in house dance at night.

Everything was built around,

are we gonna go to the club tonight?

(mid-tempo Latin house)

[Dinita] And then we both danced for Rennie Harris

Puremovement as lead dancers.

[Rennie] Those two, it was just fireworks.

Dinita is just a beast, she's a force.

And Kyle held it down.

They were a blessing to have.

So they were a core within the core

that's gonna keep that foundation for you.

[Kyle] We had the same mindset,

to be the best people we could possibly be for each other,

and for everyone else around us.

Going on eight years married,

and it's been a blessed journey.

(chill deep house with female vocals)

♪ Oh, oh ♪

(catchy deep house)

[Dinita] We started Just Sole! Street Dance Theater in 2010,

dedicated to the preservation of hip-hop, house,

and funk dance forms,

focusing on putting the culture first.

'Cause a lot of times people are so interested

within the movement, but not understanding

where the actual movement came from.

[Imani] And when I came to U Arts,

and I danced with Dinita as my teacher,

I was like, wow, there's a whole culture to this?

[Kyle] New York's the foundation.

Then as you come down to Philly,

though we do hit hard and have quick footwork,

we still dance to a lot of soul music,

which keeps us grounded.

Improvisational, freestyle is the foundation.

For Just Sole! members, we urge them always

to go out into the community, go to the parties,

enter the battles.

We teach you the language

and now you go communicate with the community yourself.

[Dinita] That's the way our OGs carried it,

and we've appreciated that knowledge and that lineage.

(catchy deep house)

(hip-hop breakbeats)

[Dave] First time I had been to a party out in Philly

that played house music was here at Temple (University),

at Mitten Hall.

Back in '87, 1988, with DJ "Tee" Alford,

and it was usually it myself and maybe

two or three people dancing to this music.

(upbeat, propulsive house)

[DJ "Tee" Alford] Quite frankly, folks didn't understand

the music I was playing.

The college crowd didn't have the same access to the music

that I was used to, coming from the New York metro area.

There was club music and dance music here,

but you had to be 21, or the music was located

in these kinda secret bars, and speakeasy locations.

[Dave] It's just a whole other culture

coming out of the gay community in Philadelphia.

[DJ "Tee" Alford] And these parties would go all night,

late into the morning, sometimes the next day.

(old-skool acid house)

That culture is kind of what

we introduced to a new audience.

And we created Sunday nights at the Impulse.

[Dave] That was kinda like the ground zero

for the house music swell, the popularity of it.

(old-skool acid house)

The energy was just so free.

Going into the '90s, you could see the influence

of house music and the house aesthetic growing.

[Rennie] Yo, what's up, people?

I'm Rennie Harris, this is-

What was groundbreaking about "One House Street"

was that we were on a whole different wavelength.

I went around recruiting all the dancers from the clubs,

from Philly, 'cause I wanted that energy on the television.

The impact that "One House Street" had on the dance scene

in Philly was that, 'they see us.'

And we were killing "Soul Train."

Killing Club MTV.

(energetic Afro house)

[Kyle] My first introduction to house dance clubs

was Lee Jones' Sundae Party, along with Frank Collazo,

who would spin.

It was something I had never experienced before.

We'd all come out, young, old, Black, white,

everything in between.

And it felt like home.

Dinita and I, we would come in early,

and be the last ones out every time.

And for us, it's going on 17, 18 years

of going to the Philly Sundae Party.

(energetic Afro house)

[Imani] That is where you can get all aspects

of your dance out without any kind of judgment.

[Marcus] It's just such a beautiful space

of celebration and community.

Being a queer dancer in this space,

I get to come and vogue down,

and still be celebrated and be a part of it.

It's been my favorite thing about Sundae Parties.

[Lee] Sundae started when it was a conversation

about the commercialization of house,

with your MTVs and all that.

And it wasn't about the flow of music,

it was about the flow of cash.

And the number one rule of Sundae is,

if you're not here to dance, go home.

[Dinita] There were a lot of OGs dancing

crazy flexibility, dynamic moves,

open to sharing that energy with newcomers,

and shared rounds with me.

(minimal, atmospheric house with driving beats)

[Lee] Sundae was this great clash of cultures

that could've gone bad, but in the course of one summer,

B-Boys were voguing,

and voguers were spinning on their hands.

[Kyle] Battle is the show and prove aspect of the culture.

It's where ideas are exchanged.

And so, the Second Sundae Battles,

it became a pivotal place where all of the young folk,

no matter their form, we had a all styles night.

We have a house night.

It's where different crews from all over the city

got to come in and participate or battle.

[Francisco] Kyle and Dinita, they're just leaders.

They would take all their students,

and they just kept introducing more

and more people into the scene.

(upbeat Afro house)

♪ Oh, oh ♪

♪ Oh, oh ♪

♪ Oh, oh ♪

[Dinita] Kyle and I, we serve as a bridge

to the younger generation.

Understanding the value of people who are older than you,

who have been around in these spaces,

who have a lot of information to share.

I think that's very powerful,

and that's how it happened to me,

focusing on culture and community first.

[Marcus] They are literally family.

They treat, and love, and speak like family,

teaching you how you have to push yourself

to a certain limit to then see

what you're made of past that limit.

And I'm applying it to anything that I'm doing.

[Kyle] When the kids come and say,

"yo, we didn't know this was something we needed."

That's exactly how Dinita and I felt

when we walked into the Philly house club scenes

for the first time.

(dancers clapping)

- Hey, hey, hah! - Hee!

[Dinita] Thank you, everyone, for watching.

Be sure to check out more episodes

of "If Cities Could Dance."

[Kyle] And let us know what city you want

"If Cities Could Dance" to come to next.

Make sure you drop a comment below, like, subscribe.

You already know the drilly.

[Dinita] Sending so much

[Kyle And Dinita] peace, love, and soul!

(relaxed deep house)


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