d. Sabela grimes aka Ovasoul7 hailed by the LA Times as“Los Angeles dance world’s best kept secret,” …Who me?
I am a multi-hyphenated artist whose performance/dance work intends to transform speech into a physical energy and sound into a visual performance with movement that is electric on transmission. I teach dance/choreography and perform internationally as a vocalist, dancer and poet. I use a mix of social/historical observation, self-examination and exploration to “familiarize the mystery and mystify the familiar.” My creative process openly aims to create performance art that touches each viewer/observing participant at various levels of spirit, body, mind and emotion. Presenting and living in non-linear narrative offerings that blur the line between performer and audience. To be straight up … by the end of the day … I’m simply a story teller, a wanderer, a wonderer, an ordinary ‘round the way mystic.
I hail from the notorious flower fields of Lompoc, California. I hold a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance/Choreography from UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Culture Department and a BA in English Literature from UCLA as well. As an undergraduate I focused on African-American Literature & Cultural Studies. I feel especially blessed to have studied African Cosmology and African Literature in translation with Africa’s Poet Laureate, Mazisi Kunene. Shortly after graduation, I made a pilgrimage to Soweto, South Africa. Consequently, I have a pleasurable and celebratory tendency to draw on the connection between traditional and contemporary African movement in Hip Hop dance. After 15 months, I returned to the United States and landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In Philly, I established a solid reputation in the city’s synergetic soulful performance poetry/spoken word community. It’s during this period that I began to playfully craft passionate and inventive solo performances that exemplified a fluent fusion of language, sound and movement. Searching for additional outlets to funnel my artistic juices during this intensive creative phase I gave birth to Ovasoul7 (who was conceived in South Africa) and made a transition into theater. My first stage show was with Homer Jackson’s Multimedia Hip Hopera, The Three Willies. Subsequently, I continued to work in local and regional theater productions.
In 1997, I joined Rennie Harris Puremovement (RHPM). During my tenure with RHPM, I became a principal dancer and the company’s Education/Outreach Coordinator. I had the privilege to co-write the script, collaborate with an amazing group of dance artist, and compose two songs for RHPM’s award winning production Rome and Jewels. With 3 Bessie Awards and 2 Alvin Ailey Awards, Rome & Jewels has performed for sold-out audiences nationally and internationally and is the longest touring Hip Hop dance theater work in American history. In addition to my work with RHPM, I toured extensively in Cool Heat Urban Beat, a fusion of tap and hip hop that showcased the talents of select RHPM dancers, renown hoofers Tamungo and Omar Edwards, musicians Daniel Moreno and DJ Miz. Cool Heat was critically acclaimed in Scotland, London, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Since branching out from RHPM, I have conceived, written, scored, choreographed and presented several dance theater works, Philly XP, World War What?Ever? and 40 Acres & A Microchip: Salvation or Servitude from my EXPERIMENT EARTH sound-movement triptych, and BULLETPROOF DELI. I have performed at the New York Hip Hop Theater Festival, PS 122, The Joyce Theater and Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, Royce Hall and Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, Grad Halle de Parc de la Villette in Paris, Theatre Jean Vilar (Suresnes), the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C., MCA in Chicago, the Holland Dance Festival, Spoleto Dance Festival, the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. I have taught master classes and workshops extensively throughout the world at universities, community organizations, as well as, dance festivals in Adelaide Festival of Arts in Australia, New Zealand Festival 2000, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, Holland Dance Festival, and Style Is King Hip Hop Dance & Culture Festival, Switzerland.
Presently, I am creating real-ationships, exploring myself and the world as a creative soloist, choreographer, actor, creative consultant, innovative educator and scholar. My scholarship primarily focuses on corporeality in regards to the global dissemination of black cultural products via human agency and cyber-space. I am interested in the physical and meta-physical efficacy of Black dance practices. My dance workshops celebrate the history, traditions and spiritual elements of Afro-Diasporic social dance; affirming that this language of movement, rich in innovations and African aesthetics, labeled “Hip Hop” dance, has deep roots and a broader sense of purpose than we tend to acknowledge. In addition to exploring the subtle nuances that typify Black dance, my primary focus is to facilitate an experience that inspires a dancer to become a “whole bodies” listener. I seek to encourage people to balance and build a relationship with the music, the moment and those around both visible and invisible. Let us move from the inside out in conscious surrender, holding on to letting go, turn it up while gettin’ down. I created a technique-based approach to learning Black vernacular dances and dance practices called Funkamentals, which is at the core of The Funkamental Movement Experience.
Apart from his aforementioned contributions, I have acted in both film and television. I have also composed and designed sound for several dance theater works and dance films including Victoria Marks’ Medium Big Inefficient Considerably Imbalanced Dance, Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project’s, Beautiful Struggle and David Rousseve’s, Stardust. As a singer/songwriter, I worked with a diverse array of artists such as poet Ursula Rucker, DJ Spinna, The Society, Anthony Tidd, JazzySport, Mogauwane Maholele, Jill Scott, Leroy Jenkins, Matthew Herbert, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Slope, Ozzie Jones, Jazz innovator Douglas Ewart, Jazzanova and others. If you’d like more info about the music side of thangs … check out Ovasoul7.
I am committed to the celebration of language, sound and movement in the living tradition of Africans in America. I write, dance, sing, act and compose music to explore the souls of us folk. Within this celebration is a quest to answer an inquiry; “who am I?” Art is a medium and the answer lives in the QUESTion. With each work I am becoming in-formed by the word, intrigued by the movement, captured by the melody, lost and found in the character, and in-spired by the music; inviting all folk to be-come and join me on this journey.