WEST HARTFORD — The Autorino Center for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Saint Joseph kicks off the performing arts center’s 2019-2020 season with the hip-hop dance duo The Wondertwins’ newest show, “BLACK.” The performance is Friday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available as part of the Autorino Center’s Pay-It-Forward program, where audience members decide what, if anything, they would like to pay.
“BLACK” explores the traumatizing effects of police violence towards the black community by incorporating sound and video from iconic African American figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tupac, as well as victims, their relatives, and police officers. What results is an urgent and kaleidoscopic tour de force that is both entertaining and a disruptive snapshot of black life.
Billy and Bobby McClain are identical twins who grew up in Boston, Mass., in the 1970s. Their dance careers started on a very small stage at the age of six, performing for family members at cookouts. Two years later, they had their first real show at the Cyclorama in Beantown’s South End. Wearing matching silk brown sweat suits, they finished their first contest with a win, judged by hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow. By age 10, they were asked to join Boston’s first professional street dance crew, The Funk Affects. During this time, they opened up for some of the biggest names in hip-hop history: Run DMC, LL Cool J, KRS One, and Afrika Bambaataa, to name a few.
After seven years with the crew, Billy and Bobby branched off to become The Wondertwins. Since that time, the duo has had many notable accomplishments, including appearing on Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel US/UK tour and Apollonia of Purple Rain’s UK tour. They were the opening act for EPMD, Public Enemy, and Queen Latifah. They have also appeared on such television shows as “Good Day New York,” “Evening Magazine,” and “The Jenny Jones Show.”
The Apollo Theater holds many fond memories for Billy and Bobby. In 1989, Mc Lyte invited them to dance on stage during her show at the Apollo. Shortly after this, they won “Amateur Night/Showtime at the Apollo” six times. The twins recently returned to the legendary theater, this time with their names on the marquee, sharing the stage with the legendary Maurice Hines Jr. in his show Club Harlem.
Some more recent accomplishments include winning The Pioneers of Dance Award, being selected for The Boston Globe Magazine’s “25 Most Stylish Bostonians of 2011,” and in 2015, touring their wildly successful full-length show, To Hip-Hop, with Love.
This Pay-It-Forward performance has been made possible by donations made at previous Pay-It-Forward performances. Attendees can choose their own ticket price, knowing that their generosity will underwrite future free and Pay-It-Forward performances. Tickets can be reserved by visiting www.autorino.usj.edu, by calling 860-231-5555, or purchased at the door at the Frances Driscoll Box Office. The Autorino Center is located on the campus of the University of Saint Joseph, 1678 Asylum Ave., in West Hartford. The performance will be followed by a free post-show dialogue to be facilitated by Everyday Democracy and the Connecticut Collaborative on Poverty, Criminal Justice and Race.
With The Wondertwins’ “BLACK,” the Autorino Center kicks off its new Faculty Fellows program, an educational endeavor that augments the performances that occur onstage with online content curated by University of Saint Joseph faculty. For “BLACK,” Stanley F. Battle, Ph.D., professor of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, has assembled supplementary materials that can be found at www.autorino.usj.edu/facultyfellows.
The Wondertwins will be leading a free Master Class on hip-hop dance on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. in the Hoffman Auditorium. To register, visit www.autorino.usj.edu.