Meet The Director: Ben Hansen


3What is Street Beat?

Street Beat is the marriage of drums and dance, framed in a vibrantly theatrical setting. But it’s more than that, because seeing a Street Beat show is like going to the wedding of drum and dance, and having the best time of your life.

What’s the philosophy behind Street Beat?

Dancing and Drumming are surely the most ancient art forms of homo sapiens, and they are absolutely wedded together, two sides of the same thing.  The beat of the heart, running across the savannah, this is the primal expression of what it is to be alive for humans. And it’s all one thing.  So, we are practicing the primal, tribal art and transplanting it to the modern urban landscape.  It has never died.  It changes, it evolves; it is a living thing.

What’s your personal story, Ben?

1173811_10151755575706708_410748074_nI’ve been pounding on things almost since I came out of the womb. Family legend has it that I banged my head on a dresser as a baby, and instead of crying I laughed and did it again.  Another story about me is that I used to love thunderstorms, the louder, the better.  I’d squeal with delight and yell back at the sky. But Danes aren’t generally known for being boisterous and loud.  They’re famous for being quiet…and melancholy. So, after disturbing the peace and taxing my neighbors’ patience for 24 years, I came to America, land of joyful noise. And if you think about it, music is just organized noise, and drumming is just music at it’s most elemental level. Drumming and dancing are in our blood. They go back to the dawn of civilization…or at least back to the afternoon of civilization. My earliest memory of drumming magic is hearing a Gene Krupa solo on a record of my Dad’s. Remember records?  Those black discs with a hole in the middle? I dented everything in the kitchen that night.  It was so immediate, and yet it was so tribal, ancient.  I was hooked.

What sets you apart from other drum groups?

drummer street beat Benjamin Hansen training session Islands Brygge Copenhagen Denmark performance children recieving waist bucket drums training using sticksWe take African, Cuban, Latin, West African and jazz concepts and mix them all into a gumbo of our own to produce something dynamic and complex, yet simple to grasp and full of raw energy at the same time.  Art should inform, but it also ought to taste good. In the theatrical setting, we can really focus this energy and make the audience an integral part of the experience.  The audience is a huge part of the experience, as we’re feeding off each other’s energy.  That’s when the walls melt away, the curtains dissolve; that’s when we become the agents of magic.  People go to the theater to be transformed, to feel renewed and connect on the deepest level with what it means to be a human being.


Dave Carr (5)

What inspires you to get up on stage every night?

What’s really inspiring to me – and, hopefully, to every audience member we’ve ever touched – is that we create this moment, this shared experience, using ordinary, everyday items you’d find around your house, and we show how to make the ordinary extraordinary. It’s what we call repurposed percussion, demonstrating that almost any object can be used to make sound.  We haven’t worked marshmallows and pillows into the act yet, but we’re working on it. We unlock the magic in the mundane and work our tails off proving you really can’t judge a book by its cover.  That’s a good message to share, that’s the takeaway:  we all look pretty much the same, but we all carry the unique, the unexpected within us.


If you had a metaphor for Street Beat, what would it be?

I often think of Street Beat as a time machine.  We take the ancient past, bring it into the immediate moment and point toward the future, dancing all the way. One happy critic called us “an urbanized journey through percussion,” which I think rings true.  But we’re also a tribal journey through the urban age.