Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hip-Hop Zone

Matt Zone (center) and fellow members of Project 5 with singer Claudja Barry, mid-1980s

In 1982, when Matt Zone was 19, he visited his brother in New York City, witnessed break-dancers on 42nd Street and was instantly in awe.

Back home in Cleveland, Zone created Project 5, a hip-hop group inspired by what he had seen in the Big Apple.

Thirty years later, Zone, a Cleveland city councilman, is reuniting Project 5, the city’s preeminent break-dancing crew for the first time in 25 years. This Saturday, they’re opening for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Grandmaster Flash at the House of Blues to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Progressive Arts Alliance.

Be prepared to see some tabletops, backspins, windmills and flares as Zone and other Project 5 members complete synchronized routines and individual dances.

“For us, it didn’t matter about where we came from,” says Zone. “It was all about your craft and what you could do on the dance floor.”

Project 5 is a diverse group; three original members are Puerto Rican and one is African-American, while Zone is white. “It enhanced my skills as a leader,” Zone says, “and what I do today, working with diverse individuals.” Break dancing also connected Zone with his wife; they met at a performance in 1984.

Founded in 2002, the Progressive Arts Alliance is a non-profit organization that inspires young people through the arts and 21st century media. At the alliance's anniversary bash, employees of local workplaces such as Bonbon Pastry and Cafe and the Cleveland Public Library will battle it out on stage to see who has the best dance moves. Guests can learn how to scratch a record by hand, create a custom graffiti hat and make a screen-printed T-shirt.

Although Project 5 disbanded in 1987, Zone says the group is ready to perform again.

“It’s like riding a bike. It wasn’t long until we shook off the rust,” says Zone, who has been rehearsing for the past three weeks.

“We put together what I think is a very solid routine. I think people are going to be quite surprised with what we do.”

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