Big moves on the Big E stage

Berkshire native's dance skills take her all around the world, and back to Springfield this week

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WEST SPRINGFIELD — A multi-week marathon of entertainment and food like The Big E requires a jolt from time to time. Early on at the fair, which runs through Sept. 30, a Monument Mountain Regional High School graduate will be part of a group consistently providing one.

Lisa Kapchinske, 32, is one of two hip-hop dancers in Street Beat, a Los Angeles-based urban rhythm and dance troupe that will perform at The Big E's Court of Honor Stage three times per day (11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.) through Tuesday, Sept. 18. Preceding acts such as Hanson, Morris Day and the Time and Tony Orlando, Street Beat's show will feature a performer who derives some of her dance knowledge from the Berkshires.

"I'm really excited to be so close in Springfield to perform and be able to connect with the local people that I was around for so long," Kapchinske told The Eagle during a telephone interview Wednesday.

Along with tricks and flips from Kapchinske and company, Street Beat includes two drummers who are wont to bang on trash buckets, providing an educational experience in the process.

"We basically take everyone through a journey of the history of hip-hop and drumming. Dance and drumming are two of the most ancient celebrated arts, so it's really fun to show the audience where that all came from," Kapchinske said.

While hip-hop informs much of contemporary pop culture, its roots aren't often explored by today's youth, according to Kapchinske.

"The history's not necessarily being taught," she said.

Kapchinske started learning dance when she was 5. Born in Pittsfield, she was living in Southern California at the time. She competed there regularly until her family moved back to the Berkshires in her teens. She subsequently began taking hip-hop classes at Berkshire Pulse in Housatonic.

"They would bring in people from New York, and I'd come take class with them," Kapchinske said.

She also danced and choreographed at Monument Mountain before commencing her career in New York City. Since that time, she has performed at the Super Bowl, in music videos with Rita Ora and LMFAO and in live performances for Trey Songz and the Los Angeles Clippers. But one gig stands out above the rest.

"I was Betty White's break-dance double for a promo for her NBC show 'Off Their Rockers,'" she said. "Basically, they dressed me up in her clothes and put a wig on me. I was fortunate enough that she was on set when I was doing my filming, so I got to meet her. She was just so sweet and lovely. And then it was really cool to see my break-dancing moves and then spin up and, 'Look, it's Betty White.' That was a really fun one."

Kapchinske books jobs around the world. Several years ago, she traveled with a company to Brazil to host workshops and participate in dance festivals.

"I'm just very grateful for the opportunity to connect with all sorts of people in different parts of the world and different cultures and really come together through movement," Kapchinske said of the experience.

More recently, she and a couple of friends traveled to the United Arab Emirates for a New Year's show.

"We did a crazy performance of dancing and fire right over the water in Abu Dhabi. It was just beautiful," she said.

Kapchinske also regularly tours with All Wheel Sports, which puts on stunt shows incorporating BMX and other extreme sports. The events are family-oriented, and Kapchinske has appreciated connecting with young spectators at various stops.

"My goal all along with performing is to inspire people to do what they want to do and continue to move their bodies. I felt like with that company, I really got to do that on a large-scale," she said.

Though she is often traveling, Kapchinske has two big reasons to keep the Berkshires on her mind. Her parents, Susan and Gary, still reside in Lenox. When she's in town, Kapchinske often performs and teaches at her mother's gymnastics program, Gymnastics Unlimited, in Great Barrington. She's looking forward to having Susan and Gary in the audience at The Big E.

"That's really the best," she said. "They inspire me so much."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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