In the hip-hop dancing extravaganza "Groovaloo," the titular dance crew pulls off a sometimes stunning array of break dancing tricks and acrobatic feats.
But there isn't any Hollywood magic in play here.
"We had one reviewer say 'Do you have strings or wire?'" says Bradley Rapier, the co-creator of the stage show. "The only effects are our bodies."
Ivan Valez poses mid-dance during the hip-hop dance show “Groovaloo,” coming to Penn State University Park’s Eisenhower Auditorium Thursday.
Groovaloos founder and “Groovaloo” co-creator Bradley Rapier is surrounded by the show’s cast.
Rapier is the co-founder of the Los Angeles dance troupe the Groovaloos, whose real-life story is the basis for "Groovaloo," which will visit Penn State University Park's Eisenhower Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
"I formed the Groovaloos in 1999, and the show is about how the different members came together and how we came together as a group," Rapier, 48, said in a recent interview from the show's tour bus as it drove to a tour stop in Springfield, Ohio. "We begin as strangers and end as a group. It's a hybrid - its theater, it's dance, it's story.
"Basically the goal behind the show is to give people a glimpse of the beauty and power of the hip-hop dance culture - not just as a dance revue, but as a culture."
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
Tickets: $49 and $55 for the general public, $34 and $40 for University Park
Students and $44 and
$50 for children ages
18 and younger
A native Canadian, Rapier was preparing for medical school (his father is a doctor) when hip-hop dancing captured his imagination - and his future.
"I was on my way to becoming a doctor like my father - I studied and went to university," he said. "I joined a (dance) group and it was a hobby for me, but all of a sudden I was hooked by the magic and the beauty of the dance."
A short time later, Rapier moved to the United States, eventually making his home in Los Angeles, and began winning national dance and choreography awards. He did choreography for and danced in many television shows, concert tours and commercials and served as talent coordinator for the final two seasons of CBS's "Star Search" revival.
Eventually, he says, the Groovaloos began to form organically.
"At first, I had a weekly event just at my house," Rapier said. "We were working together and getting ready for auditions and a group evolved."
The Groovaloos began winning awards for their dancing and appeared on "The Ellen Show," "The Wayne Brady Show" and, most recently, the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance" in December. In 2009, the group was chosen to represent the USA on the NBC dance competion series "Superstars of Dance," which pitted internationl dance groups, as well as individual dancers, against each other.
They won the competition, beating out a group of Shaolin monks from China.
All the while, Rapier had been trying to get hip-hop dance out to a bigger audience.
"I had been working on ideas of how to get this dance culture out to the people," he said. "Three or four years after the group formed, we were doing a series of "How to Dance Hip-Hop" DVDs and I was doing interviews with the Groovaloos and asking why they danced. ... Listening to their answers, I thought 'This is the story. Our story.'"
They started telling the story of how the group got together in a series of performances in Los Angeles, then began to branch out.
"We did more big productions and kept putting it in bigger and bigger venues," Rapier said. "Then it got big attention and they said, 'We want to take you to New York and do this Off-Broadway.'"
After a brief, acclaimed run in New York, the touring show began to form. Immediately following a five-week Off-Broadway run at The Union Square Theatre in New York City, Rapier and his 14-person cast went directly to the tour.
According to Laura Sullivan, director of marketing at Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State booked "Groovaloo" just before the Off-Broadway run became such a success.
"We thought it would be a big attraction for students on campus especially," she said. "After we went ahead and scheduled it, the Groovaloos show started to take off. ... They just have been gaining momentum this entire time."
According to Sullivan, the show is different from anything Eisenhower has hosted before.
"The closest thing to this would be something like 'Stomp,'" she said. "But as far as break dance and that whole style of performance, this is the first time we've had something like that."
Sullivan said that interest for the show was good and should increase when a pair of the "Groovaloo" dancers visit the University Park campus on Monday.
First, they'll be guest instructors in Penn State's hip-hop dance classes, then they'll appear at a meet and greet event from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Eisenhower. The event admission details will be given to anyone who becomes a fan of the Penn State Center for the Performing Arts on Facebook.
"It's rare that we actually have access to the artists in advance of the performance," Sullivan explained.
Both Rapier and Sullivan stressed that the show is fit for families and non-dancers will like the show as much as dancers.
"Dance is a metaphor for life for us," Rapier said. "If you dance, you're going to love the show, but if you don't dance ... there's tragedy, triumph, celebration; There's things you connect to whether you're an accountant or a dancer."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.