A new storytelling program will turn its focus to Black creatives, with the aim of upholding, highlighting and celebrating voices within the dance community. Founded by performer, producer and dance writer Charmaine Warren, “Black Dance Stories” brings together dancers and choreographers who “use their art to create commentary on the Black experience.”
The sessions will take place on Thursdays at 6 p.m. throughout July. Viewers can tune in live via Zoom or catch the archived conversations on the “Black Dance Stories” YouTube page following the stream.
“Our dance world was pummeled by COVID-19, and Black dance artists around the world are finding ways to talk about life during this time,” Warren said in an announcement. “Our world was further turned upside down after horrible events ensued nationally and globally, bringing attention, yet again, to the need for the Black Lives Matter movement. Black dance artists have not been quiet since. Black dance artists have been doing the work. Black dance artists continue to make work.”
The first official episode premiered June 25 with tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel and dancer, choreographer and Company SBB founder Stefanie Batten Bland. On July 9, the conversation continues with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre resident choreographer and dancer Jamar Roberts and Tiffany Rea-Fisher, artistic director of Elisa Monte Dance.
Other guests set to appear throughout the month include Cynthia Oliver (Cynthia Oliver Co. Dance Theatre), Marjani Forté-Saunders (formerly Urban Bush Women), Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris (Rennie Harris Puremovement), J. Bouey (Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company), Kyle Marshall (Kyle Marshall Choreography), and Okwui Okpokwasili (Past Hodder Fellow).
Over email, Warren says that she sent word about the idea to approximately 50 Black dance artists she either knew as friends or had worked with during her time as a performer, presenter and curator. “Their enthusiastic responses spoke volumes,” she said. From there, she struck up a plan with Kimani Fowlin and Nick Hall, who make up the other part of the creative team behind “Black Dance Stories.”
“The response from the Black community to George Floyd’s killing was an alarm in our Black dance community also,” Warren explained. “In some of the one-on-one discussions with the artists before we air, we all … agree that these stories are not new, but not everyone has been listening.”
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In the press release for the upcoming July events, organizers stated that the series is in line with “the tradition of Black artists finding a way for their voices to be heard during turbulent times.” The aim of the series is to elevate this ongoing and sustained work produced by Black artists in the dance world.
“The hope is that these artists will be at the front of the line and be seen, be heard and given [equal] opportunities for the work that they have always been doing,” Warren said. “None of this is new.”
Top Image: Marjani Forté-Saunders. Photo by Ian Douglas.