Newport This Week

Hip-Hop Performance Brings Cheers from Pell Students

Bobby McClain a six-time winner of “Showtime at the Apollo.” (Photo by Jared Kolok)

Bobby McClain a six-time winner of “Showtime at the Apollo.” (Photo by Jared Kolok)

On March 23 students from Pell Elementary School participated in a hip-hop workshop with the Boston-based duo, The Wondertwins.

Brought to Pell Elementary by FirstWorks, the Providence-based nonprofit that pioneered PVDFest, The Wondertwins led thirdand fourth-graders in an hourlong workshop teaching hip-hop dance.

Identical twins Billy and Bobby McClain are six-time winners of “Showtime at the Apollo” and were recognized in 2019 by the Berklee College of Music as “Artists for Social Change.”

With 25 years of experience as educators, The Wondertwins seek to inspire and engage young people through the medium of hip-hop dance. Their distinctive style, honed by four decades of hip-hop performance, combines elements of vaudeville, robot, tap and mime.

Photo by Jared Kolok

“The hip-hop routine is simple,” said Billy McClain. “If you don’t get it right, who cares? Don’t worry about getting it right; just worry about having fun!”

The twins led the students through movement after movement, gradually building each into the next. Their attitude and energy were infectious, and even teachers and staff were joining the students in learning dance moves.

The twins would raise their hands high as a signal to raise the energy level, and lower their arms to tell the students to become still and quiet. At a particularly rowdy moment, Bobby repeated, “All energy is good if you can control it.”

Later that afternoon, The Wondertwins returned for a matinee performance. Students filed into the lunchroom, reacting to costume changes of differently colored sequin blazers and changes in the music with excitement and loud cheering.

At the conclusion of the matinee, the twins led a brief question and answer session. Students asked a range of questions, from inquiring about specific dance moves, like the moonwalk, to more general inquiries about the group’s history.

Prior to leaving the stage, Bobby McClain said the main takeaway from their performance is to “dance like everybody’s watching,” and to be “proud of who you are as a great individual, so you can be a great part of your community.”

Photo by Jared Kolok

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