On a Tuesday night, six members of Trill'Agy, a Jackson hip-hop dance troupe, goof off in a dance studio on Hattiesburg Street. The six young men, mostly high school students, are with their coach Bridget Archer and a few women from the Bridget Archer Performing Arts Company, or B.P.A.C. They're practicing for an upcoming Black History Month performance. To the sound of old-school hip-hop breaks, the dancers face the studio's long mirror and play a version of "follow the leader," each taking a turn improvising steps and poses. By the time the music stops, everyone is winded and laughing.
Despite their playful practice, the dancers in Trill'Agy are serious performers. Last month, they danced with B.P.A.C. at New York City's Lincoln Center, for a series sponsored by the American Alliance of Performing Arts Educators. For some of the dancers, the trip was their first time on an airplane.
The group has come long way from its first performance in 2004. Brandon Bankhead, then a student at Jim Hill High School, assembled the group after being inspired by the movie "You Got Served" and its portrayal of dance positively affecting people's lives.
"We went through a staggering time, because we didn't have any sponsors or anything like that to keep us together," Bankhead recalls. After about a year and a half, he says, the group got in touch with Bridget Archer. In 2006, they officially became a part of B.P.A.C. and adopted the name Trill'Agy.
Bankhead describes the group's dance style as a combination of hip-hop forms, including breakdancing, popping, locking and krumping. Working with Archer, the group has expanded its repertoire to include elements of African dance and ballet.
According to Bankhead, that potent mix of styles is what makes Trill'Agy special. "We can get on stage and just explode," he says.
Trill'Agy and the Bridget Archer Performing Arts Company will perform at "Reflections: Honoring our Heritage," on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008, at 7 p.m. The event, co-sponsored by the City of Jackson and Jackson State University, will be held in JSU's Rose M. McCoy Auditorium.