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Minority activists defend black-faced dance troupe inspired by England’s coal mines

A The minority activism network doesn’t believe an all-male dance troupe should be raked in the coals for its divisional costume, saying the context doesn’t make blackface attire “a racial thing.”

The Britannia Coconut Dancers received support from the Lancashire minority advocacy group BME Network after the John Morris Organization, the dancers’ parent company, decided the troupe could not continue to wear the costumes, part of which required the dancers to wear black face paint. LBN said the historical background shows the dancers’ blackened faces are not intended to be offensive, saying face painting is part of “a rich cultural tradition linked to Lancashire”.

“In the past, when I worked on similar topics, I never saw them as a racial thing at all,” said Jonathon Prasad, project manager for the network. Daily mail. “We think communities should come out and really ask questions about why people blackface.”

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The JMO decided last year that its dance members would be required to stop darkening their faces because the paint “has the potential to cause deep injury.” The Britannia Coconut Dancers refused the JMO requirement and parted ways with the organization soon after.

While the exact origins of the troop’s costume are unclear, one theory Explain by Prasad argues that “the factory workers who were quite poor had to earn extra income, so one of the things they did was paint their faces black so their employers wouldn’t know that they dance for extra money, “adding that it is” also related to a whole pagan ritual also about not wanting to be attached to evil spirits. “

Other incidents around the world in which people have appeared publicly in blackface have drawn criticism. A staff member from an elementary school in the United States was put on leave last month after wearing blackface to work, and politicians such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is facing calls to quit after photos were posted allegedly showing them in blackface years earlier.

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Britannia coconut Dancers held her first performance since her split from JMO on Sunday, dancing in Lancashire for around five hours. Gavin McNulty, the troupe’s secretary, called the performance and audience participation “a big success.”

The Washington Examiner has contacted LBN, JMO and the dance group for comment.

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Key words: New, Dancing, Activism, the diversity, Race and diversity

Original author: Asher notheis

Original location: Raked on the coals: Minority activists defend a black-faced dance troupe inspired by British coal mining


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All Abilities Dance Troupe brings the community together again

For people with disabilities, the restrictions imposed by the pandemic may have been doubly difficult.

“The pandemic has isolated us all – once we get through that, a lot of us will come back to sort of normal,” said Andrea Johnston, who leads the All Abilities Dance Troupe with local dance teacher Tasha Bryant. “For people with disabilities, isolation can be a constant reality. Community bonds are vitally important to our health and well-being – to all of us. “

That’s why the All Abilities dance troupe is excited to host their first in-person class in October, after a year spent meeting only through Zoom.

Before COVID, the group ran classes every month at All Saints Anglican Church. When they had to switch to online classes, it was more difficult for leaders and dancers to engage.

“We’ve pivoted both literally and figuratively by running courses on Zoom,” Johnston said. “Then last fall there was a reprieve in the restrictions and we got together for an outdoor class. We were so happy to reconnect and dance. Then we were closed again.

As always, classes are free and welcome to anyone wishing to dance together, regardless of their level of dance skill.

“It’s for anyone who wants to get up and move their body together. We all have so much fun and spend half the time laughing, ”said Bryant. “It has been such a pleasant and enriching experience. I have made so many amazing relationships with people who come from different walks of life.

The next class will be on Friday, October 15 at 4 p.m., masked and physically distanced, in the courtyard of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts Studio across from River Mill Park.

The troop has been together, with members coming and going every year, for almost seven years. The group is made up of over 30 people of all skill levels who come together for the love of dancing and over the years have participated in many events in Huntsville.

Although they partner with Community Living Huntsville to bring their clients into the troop, the group has many non-disabled people including business owners, board members, teens and seniors.

The troupe is grateful for the support of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts, Community Living Huntsville and the Muskoka Dance Academy.

Follow the All Abilities dance troupe Facebook page for updates on this event and future performance.

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Vertical dance troupe to explode in Old Fourth Ward this weekend

Nigerian fashion and textile designer IB Bayo has designed fabric stories, costumes and sets.

Photograph courtesy of Bandaloop

In 2019, New City’s Jim Irwin asked Anne Archer Dennington, executive director of Flow projects, who coordinates temporary public art projects throughout the city – if she had any ideas to animate the then unfinished development of her business at 725 Ponce in Old Fourth Ward. Dennington had just the artistic treatment in mind: dancers suspended in mid-air, performing vertically on the building’s edge facing the Eastside BeltLine trail. she had just met Bandaloop, a California dance troupe that combines choreography and climbing technology to reinvent dance in the public realm, and Dennington figured the facade of 725 Ponce would serve as the perfect stage — turned sideways.

His vision is finally coming to fruition. From October 1 to 3, Flux Projects will be presented in preview FIELD, the second installment of LOOM, a national four-part series from Bandaloop. The series juxtaposes traditional fabric creation techniques with the socio-ecological impacts of the global fashion industry, which alone accounts for 20% of industrial water pollution.

“The textile industry is the second polluting industry in the world. With Atlanta, but more specifically the Old Fourth Ward, playing a role in the cotton trade, this event is site specific, ”says Dennington. It refers to O4W’s Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, now the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts, which made bags out of fabric and paper. What is now Studioplex was once a cotton warehouse, and the local railroad carried related products.

Transforming the building adjacent to BeltLine into a giant loom, FIELD’s stories – led by Bandaloop’s artistic director, Melecio Estrella, and told by a collective of dancers, textile artists and sustainability strategists – will pit the ecological challenges to the power of the fabric to hold, comforts and adorns the human experience.

“You are drawn to artists because there is an undercurrent. As you work together, weaving what is prevalent in their work with what is specific to the Atlanta site, you start to find those commonalities, and the piece kind of reveals itself, ”Dennington explains to About how the partnership with Bandaloop came together, then deepened and regenerated with the pause imposed by the pandemic. The installation was initially scheduled for 2020, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Flux Projects.

“I firmly believe that artists are connected to the messages and lessons that humanity needs to learn, and they are able to make them visible and communicate them in a way that a much larger audience can start to. to hear and understand at the right time. ,” she says.

“The thing with Bandaloop is that they do it in a way that is just spectacularly beautiful.”

This article appeared in our October 2021 issue.


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Becca’s London Marathon Challenge Benefiting Chester Charity Dance Troupe

A psychology graduate does her best to raise money for a Chester charity that works with people recovering from addiction.

Becca Lennard, a recent University of East Anglia graduate, will compete in the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday October 3 for the Fallen Angels Dance Theater.

The company in residence at Storyhouse is unique in the use of dance in the recovery process.

This is not Becca’s first marathon. Earlier this year, on lockdown, the 22-year-old ran a ‘virtual’ 26.2 mile challenge in Norwich on behalf of her varsity netball team to raise money for charity.

Becca’s Golden Bond spot at the Virgin London Marathon was made possible by the Chester Lions Club. She applied to run for Fallen Angels after studying the biological psychology behind drugs and the effective rehabilitation of offenders.

She said: “I can’t wait to put on my running shoes and take on this challenge. The Fallen Angels Dance Theater makes such a big difference in people’s lives in such a positive and expressive way, which in my opinion is truly inspiring.



Psychology graduate Becca Lennard will compete in the Virgin London Marathon for the Chester-based Fallen Angels Dance Theater.

Claire Morris, Executive Director of the Fallen Angels Dance Theater, said, “We are very grateful to Becca for taking on this huge challenge on behalf of Fallen Angels. She has already put so much effort into fundraising and the more she raises, the more people we can welcome into our recovery groups.

“Becca’s marathon challenge will make a real difference in people’s lives.”

The London Marathon usually takes place in April but has been canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 event has been postponed from April to October 3 due to continued containment.

To sponsor Becca and support the Fallen Angels Dance Theater, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BeccaLennard.

The Fallen Angels Dance Theater (FADT) helps people recovering from addiction transform their lives and share the journey of recovery with the general public, through dance, performance and creativity.



Members of the Fallen Angels Dance Theater performing at the Garret Theater at Storyhouse in Chester
Members of the Fallen Angels Dance Theater performing at the Garret Theater at Storyhouse in Chester

The company supports a structured journey to enhance recovery through creative activities that promote wellness and inclusion in the recovery process.

Led by artistic director Paul Bayes Kitcher, the professional dance company offers a unique experience for dance audiences to meet works developed by artists in recovery.

Participants are at the heart of the work, sharing their stories in the R&D process and developing their dance skills in the workshop program. Auditions and professional company performances show how a creative intervention can bring about positive and lasting change in addiction recovery.

Since 2015, FADTs have performed at UK Recovery Walks every year. In 2018, they were finalists for the Working Partnership of the Association for Public Service Excellence Awards.

In 2018, they met and performed for the Queen and Duchess of Sussex. FADT also worked in residence at Tate Liverpool in response to the opening of the Keith Haring exhibition.


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A dance troupe to meander “in the woods”

A contemporary dance company that took off during the pandemic is planning its first show in an unusual place.

The six members of the Meander Dance Company will take the stage at the South Whidbey State Park Amphitheater from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 3-5.

The new company started as a pilot project last spring when South End dancer and choreographer Beck Diamond posted a social media message asking if anyone would be interested in joining the creative project.

“I’ve always wanted to start a dance company and COVID has taken all of my work from me,” Diamond said.

To meander is to wander aimlessly. It’s a name that’s been chosen in part as a societal critic, as Diamond explained when people expect artists to do something for “the greater good.”

“For me, Meander is all about finding contentment and just enjoying and being where you are at and it doesn’t matter if you get better or more skilled at an activity, but that’s not necessarily the only reason. why we are doing it, ”the company founder said, adding that they saw the company as an“ anti-capitalist practice ”.

“I think in particular that people take dance for granted and don’t look at it the same way they look at, say, musicians and other artists, painters,” Diamond said. “I want people to understand that we are a professional company that is continually working on our craft.”

The company aims to offer dance performances in an accessible way. Meander’s first show in the woods will have a “pay what you can” model. If anyone has accessibility issues about the show, Diamond has said they’d like people to email [email protected].

“I don’t just want to be an elite company that you can only go to if you have $ 50 to pay to get in,” they said.

The dancers in the company come from all walks of life and skill levels, from classical trained at the Whidbey Island Dance Theater to beginner enthusiasts. Hunter Fox, one of Meander’s younger members, was never technically trained but has been described as “a natural driver”.

“I was that person when I was younger and someone took a chance and let me be on a show. And that was it, then the next year I was choreographing, ”said Diamond. “When I see Hunter, I remember this youngster. He just brings a lot of positive energy to our rehearsals and I think he really adds to the dynamics of the group.

Diamond added that it is important for the entire community to have the opportunity to dance and perform if that is what is desired. Another goal of Meander is to eventually become a youth company, which would complement what already exists on the island for young dancers. Three children will perform as part of the dance company’s first show.

Juliana Brielle, another Meander member, said the new venture is inclusive for older generations who grew up dancing on Whidbey but now have children who might want to participate in the activity as well.

“It’s a total filling in the gap of something that was missing to be an adult and want to perform professionally,” she said.

Brielle starred as Clara in the Whidbey Island Dance Theater production “The Nutcracker” in 2009. She now has a daughter of her own who may one day also want to dance.

“It’s really exciting to be able to pull out of all the different aspects of dancing that Whidbey already has, such as with codified movement and free movement and improv contact, even part of the acro world,” Brielle said. .

The group has a GoFundMe fundraiser which can be found by searching for “Meander Dance Company”. Donations will help cover the costs of spaces the company plans to rent for future shows, such as the stage at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

But the beauty of the group is also its versatility.

“I can totally see us at the amphitheater in the woods, at WICA, on the beach, in an open field, on a basketball court,” Brielle said.

“We’re ready to meander anywhere,” Diamond joked.



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Dance troupe

A dance troupe to meander “in the woods”

A contemporary dance company that took off during the pandemic is planning its first show in an unusual place.

The six members of the Meander Dance Company will take the stage at the South Whidbey State Park Amphitheater from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 3-5.

The new company started as a pilot project last spring when South End dancer and choreographer Beck Diamond posted a social media message asking if anyone would be interested in joining the creative project.

“I’ve always wanted to start a dance company and COVID has taken all of my work from me,” Diamond said.

To meander is to wander aimlessly. It’s a name that’s been chosen in part as a societal critic, as Diamond explained when people expect artists to do something for “the greater good.”

“For me, Meander is all about finding contentment and just enjoying and being where you are at and it doesn’t matter if you get better or more skilled at an activity, but that’s not necessarily the only reason. why we are doing it, ”the company founder said, adding that they saw the company as an“ anti-capitalist practice ”.

“I think in particular that people take dance for granted and don’t look at it the same way they look at, say, musicians and other artists, painters,” Diamond said. “I want people to understand that we are a professional company that is continually working on our craft.”

The company aims to offer dance performances in an accessible way. Meander’s first show in the woods will have a “pay what you can” model. If anyone has any accessibility issues about the show, Diamond said he’d like people to email [email protected].

“I don’t just want to be an elite company that you can only go to if you have $ 50 to pay to get in,” they said.

The dancers in the company come from all walks of life and skill levels, from classical trained at the Whidbey Island Dance Theater to beginner enthusiasts. Hunter Fox, one of Meander’s youngest members, was never technically trained but has been described as “a natural driver”.

“I was that person when I was younger and someone took a chance and let me be on a show. And that was it, then the next year I was choreographing, ”said Diamond. “When I see Hunter, I remember this youngster. He just brings a lot of positive energy to our rehearsals and I think he really adds to the dynamics of the group.

Diamond added that it is important for the entire community to have the opportunity to dance and perform if that is what is desired. Another goal of Meander is to eventually become a youth company, which would complement what already exists on the island for young dancers. Three children will perform as part of the dance company’s first show.

Juliana Brielle, another Meander member, said the new venture is inclusive for older generations who grew up dancing on Whidbey but now have children who might want to participate in the activity as well.

“It’s a total filling in the gap of something that was missing to be an adult and want to perform professionally,” she said.

Brielle starred as Clara in the Whidbey Island Dance Theater production “The Nutcracker” in 2009. She now has a daughter of her own who may one day also want to dance.

“It’s really exciting to be able to pull out of all the different aspects of dancing that Whidbey already has, such as with codified movement and free movement and improv contact, even part of the acro world,” Brielle said. .

The group has a GoFundMe fundraiser which can be found by searching for “Meander Dance Company”. Donations will help cover the costs of spaces the company plans to rent for future shows, such as the stage at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

But the beauty of the group is also its versatility.

“I can totally see us at the amphitheater in the woods, at WICA, on the beach, in an open field, on a basketball court,” Brielle said.

“We’re ready to meander anywhere,” Diamond joked.



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An internationally renowned dance troupe will take the stage at the Holmes Theater on Thursday evening

“There are several different pieces on the show, but the most important work is titled ‘Burning Air’,” Shapiro & Smith artistic director Joanie Smith said in a recent phone interview.

Smith explained that the play is “loosely based” on the Great Hinckley (Minn.) Fire of 1894. In one particularly evocative scene, the dance is intended to portray people standing in about 18 inches of water, alongside of local cattle and wild animals all seeking refuge from the surrounding flames.

“These images are very powerful for us,” Smith said.

“It was literally a firestorm,” Smith said of that 1894 fire, which burned 350,000 acres – over 400 square miles – of forest land and claimed the lives of more than 415 men, women. and children as well as countless pets, livestock and wildlife.

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Smith also noted that the exact number of people who died in that fire was still unknown, as during this time period, Native American lives lost were not counted in the official tally.

Smith said she and some of her fellow dancers thought the timing of this piece was particularly appropriate, with the recent wildfires in Canada sending unpleasantly smoky air through Minnesota at various times this summer, as well as the more recent fire that sent clouds of black smoke across downtown Detroit Lakes last Friday.

While undoubtedly tragic, said Smith, the play “Burning Air” is also meant to evoke emotions of hope and faith. Other pieces performed during the two-hour show will evoke romance, inspiration and even comedy.

“There’s this unique piece, called ‘Shirt’ … it’s about a bunch of men negotiating and busting about for a bunch of shirts,” Smith said, adding that the performance was intentionally humorous. . “It was totally inspired by my dogs.”

Smith explained that her three dogs were known to fight and argue over a toy they didn’t even notice until she picked it up and called attention to it. “It’s really, really funny.”

In another more poignant piece, titled “To Have and To Hold,” the dancers evoke a sense of romance and what it really means to lose a loved one. Although it was choreographed by Smith and her husband, Danial Shapiro, several years earlier, the play took on special significance after her death from cancer in 2006 at the age of 48.

“It’s about trying to grab hold of the important people in your life and hold on to them,” she said, adding, “We miss him so much.”

Although they will only do one show at the theater during the trip, the dancers of Smith’s troupe will actually be in Detroit Lakes for several days this week, working with dancers from Northern Lights Dance of Frazee and Summit Dance of Detroit Lakes as well as seniors from the Silver Sneakers program at Ecumen Detroit Lakes and the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center, as well as the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center.

“It’s the kind of thing we really love to do,” Smith said of their outreach work; their appearance at the Holmes Theater, as well as outreach programs, are funded by a touring grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, she added.

If you are going to

What: Shapiro & Smith dance

When: Thursday September 16, 7:30 p.m.

Or: Historic Holmes Theater, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes

How? ‘Or’ What: Tickets cost $ 15 for adults, $ 7.50 for students and can be purchased by calling the Holmes Box Office at 218-844-7469 or by reserving your seats online at dlccc.org/holmes-theatre.html.


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Afrika stage! dance troupe to perform at Hancher

Afrika stage! will play ‘Drumfolk’ in Hancher after a week of community engagement with UI students and other groups.

In 1739, 20 enslaved Africans in the American colony of South Carolina used their drums to start a revolt against their slave owners. This campaign for freedom, known as the Stono Rebellion, caused widespread apprehension within the British American colonies and met with the Negro Act of 1740. This act severely restricted the expression of African slaves and prohibited their use. of the drum.

This Saturday at Hancher, Step Afrika! will tell the story of the Stono Rebellion and the Negro Act of 1740 through a theatrical experience called Drum. For Jakari Sherman, director of Drum and percussionist for Step Afrika!, the show is a story of recovery.

The dance troupe performs steps, a form of percussive dance that began to develop after enslaved Africans could no longer use the drums to communicate. The dance style is practiced by historically black fraternities and sororities.

“We have the opportunity to present the history of stepping – which is our favorite tradition to play – but through this history we are able to see a lot of the use of drums in the show and the introduction of a lot of early African American percussion traditions, ”Sherman said.

Some of those traditions include the hambone, the ring cry, and more recent contemporary footsteps, Sherman said.

“I really love the journey we are taking through this story and all the different shapes you see along this path,” he said.

Because Drum explores a very specific facet of American history, Step Afrika! Founder and Executive Director C. Brian Williams recommended viewers read both the Stono Rebellion of 1739 and the Negro Act of 1740 before the show.

“This truly fascinating piece of legislation, drafted by American settlers – of what was then the colony of South Carolina before the actual formation of the country – raises questions about the manifestations and history of social injustice in the country.” Williams said. “It also raises questions about how we respond to social injustice.”

In the case of the Negro Act of 1740, instead of creating more freedoms for African slaves, the settlers tried to suppress their freedom even more. Freedom is what enslaved Africans fought against in the Stono Rebellion of 1739, and it is an ongoing struggle today, Williams said.

“Even to this day, you see people fighting against systemic injustice and inequality in the country. But we always see people moving to improve it, ”said Williams. “Drum is our effort to tell the story of the beginning of American history that precedes the existence of the country. It’s a great moment in history that more Americans should know more about.

Afrika step! has been in Iowa since Monday and the company has been busy training, performing and educating all week. Last night, the company helped dedicate a sculpture at the Muscatine Art Center to Mary Jo Stanley, who was a great friend of the arts, Hancher executive director Chuck Swanson said.

RELATED: A brilliant new semester: Hancher kicks off the UI school year with an outdoor light show

Wednesday, Step Afrika! performers spent most of their day with UI dance students, teaching step master classes.

Afrika step! will perform Drum live in Hancher on Saturday evening. According to Swanson, the performance is a historic moment that touches on the past and raises social issues of today.

After the show there will be a ‘talk back’ for people to discuss what they saw on stage with Williams and some of the Step Afrika.! dancers. In Swanson’s eyes, there is no better way to start the fall season in Hancher.

“It’s a pretty amazing way to kick off our season,” Swanson said. “This is exactly one week’s work that Hancher strives to do.”

Tickets for Drum can be purchased through the Hancher ticket office, and the show will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday September 11.


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How this NJ dance troupe turned pandemic fears into a joyful performance

With the New York skyline as a backdrop, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company Closes Weehawken’s summer concerts on the Hudson series this Friday.

The free event at Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center tackles a heavy subject: the pandemic. Don’t worry, however, it won’t be a depressing evening.

“Shadow Force” is a 25-minute dance featuring six dancers reacting “differently to the isolation situation and those feelings translated into movement,” Chen told NJ Advance Media. “I think there are unknown forces we are facing right now – the isolation of the division and the insecurity.”

The dancers working together “imagine that love and connection will help us and come out of the shadows with struggles,” she adds.

Performing during sunset should add a special touch to the show which, weather permitting, starts at 7pm.

“You will see the light change with the sunset as the background continually shifts completely in the dark and only sees the light on the dancers on stage,” Chen explains. “Visually, it will be beautiful and dramatic. “

The 90-minute performance, which features Chen’s signature steps of traditional Chinese dance mixed with modern dance, includes other numbers evoking different moods, including joy.

“I’m going to open with a dance called ‘Raindrops’, a really beautiful female quartet,” Chen says. “I like the evening to have something pleasant and sweet. I don’t want that pain. I want to show light and hope.

A dancer performs ‘Raindrops.’

“Raindrops” was triggered by memories of Chen’s childhood in northern Taiwan, where it rains frequently. She describes this dance as soft and playful and leads to “Shadow Force”. The evening ends with “Emissary of Light”, a solo.

Chen won’t play. At 61, she describes herself as semi-retired but continues to teach and choreograph. Like so many dancers, Chen first entered a dance class at the age of 4.

She studied traditional Chinese dance and later Western forms, including modern dance. At 18, Chen was on tour, and at 22, he emigrated from Taiwan after earning a BFA in dance at Taiwan University of Chinese Culture.

At NYU, she earned a master’s degree in dance education. Decades ago, she and her husband decided to make New Jersey their home.

“I need personal space,” Chen explains. “Across the river, I heard sirens all the time. As an artist, I need space. I need to hear the birds. I went through New Jersey, and I can see birds, trees. We have deer in the yard. And as an artist, I could think, I could create.

New Jersey's Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company Gives Free Concerts This Weekend

Nai-Ni Chen, dancer, choreographer and teacher, has long made her home in New Jersey.

The company is in residence at University of the City of New Jersey in Jersey City. During the pandemic, Chen worked with dancers on Zoom.

As the performance at Weehawken marks the end of the summer concert season on the Hudson, Nai-Ni Dance Chen Dance Company is also performing at Montclair on Saturday at Dance party on the lawn.

She is delighted to give the free concerts.

“Dancing is still not as popular as music, movies, and sports,” Chen acknowledges. “Sport is number one in this country. For me, as a dancing person, I would like to have the whole world to enjoy dancing. I am a messenger. I want to keep playing and representing my work around the world. While it is free, it is accessible to everyone. It is no longer the elite.

When she visited the Hudson River Performing Arts Center, Chen liked to see families “watch the shows and get together as a family.” This neighborhood is very diverse, and you see all kinds of people, and they all come together for that. And what can be more powerful to bring family and all the arts together? “

After a year and a half, which has seen the horrific increase in hate crimes against Asians, Chen notes that she came to America because she historically embraced immigrants. In 40 years in the United States, she had never witnessed such a division. By presenting the dance, she hopes to foster cultural understanding.

“In a performance, you see how different countries come together, and it can cross cultural boundaries, and when it’s beautiful, people forget the difference,” Chen says. “They don’t look at me, ‘Oh, you’re Asian.’ Dancing is universal, and when you express it as a human, it doesn’t matter where you come from.

“Shadow Force”, performed by the Nai-Ni Chen dance company

Friday at 7 p.m.

Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, 1200 Harbor Blvd, Weehawken

Free entry, bring a chair or blanket

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Jacqueline Cutler can be contacted at [email protected]. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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Filmmaker Addison Wright turns his lens on an inspiring Chicago dance troupe in Hiplet, and hopes his films will open hearts and eyes

Addison wright Hiplet: Because we can is part of the Scene In Color film series, presented by Target, which showcases incredible filmmaking skills. As part of the series, three emerging filmmakers will receive mentorship from producer Will Packer, and their films can be viewed on Rotten Tomatoes, MovieClips Indie Channel, Peacock and the NBC app.

They have the “sexy walk”; “The pretzel; »« The dougie; “” La Viviane. ” These are not 1950s overtones. These are the dance moves performed by a special Chicago-based ballet company. Founded by Homer Hans Bryant, hiplet is a combination of hip-hop and traditional ballet performed with a dizzying and intoxicating effect by a collection of incredible local dancers. Director Addison Wright, another Chicago native, decided to make a film about these viral sensations after discovering the cast on Instagram. His eight-minute documentary short, Hiplet: Because we can, was an official selection at the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival, later became a Vimeo staff choice, and is now part of the Scene in color film series.

Wright’s film, titled after the dance, fuses a choreographed music video feel with precise documentary style for a vivid exploration of this invigorating new style of movement. While the performers’ movements speak for themselves – their swaggering strides texturize their powerful and beautiful black forms, mesmerizing the setting with a fearless spirit – Wright interviews them as well. The exuberant ballerinas explain the retreat they experienced in a world classically defined by whites for their unique artistic identity, varied body types and blackness.

In Hiplet, Wright takes an immersive and empathetic look at these talented women. He shows great agility in the making of his films, capturing the ballet motifs of the dancers while oscillating between striking colorful compositions and equally magnetic black and white filmed interviews. Hiplet is not only an exhilarating introduction to an evolving new style of ballet, but the perfect launching pad displaying Wright’s fresh and confident voice.

Here, Wright chats with Robert Daniels, a Chicago-based Tomatometer-approved Top Critic.


Robert Daniels for Rotten Tomatoes: How did you first get to the movies?

Addison Wright: I grew up in the 90s, so I was glued to the TV watching MTV and BET. I’ve always been fascinated by music videos and by directors like Hype Williams and Spike Jonze, and Little X. So I knew early on that I had a passion for it. I went to Simeon High School in Chicago, where I played football for four years. I ended up getting a scholarship to Delaware State University. I played football there and my specialty was TV production. I didn’t have a camera in high school or anything like that, but once I got to college I realized this was something I wanted to pursue.

I ended up injuring myself during my first year in college. So I didn’t play football, but the team wanted me to be around so I traveled and filmed practices and games. When there was no practice or game, I would borrow the camera and shoot clips on campus. That’s when I started learning how to build stories in music videos. So I would take some of the things I had learned in some of my classes and apply them to my videos. This is where my passion started.

(Photo by Addison Wright)

Daniels: Where and when the idea of Hiplet first form?

Wright: I was on Instagram and on my Explore page I saw these black ballerinas doing ballet a little differently. So I clicked on it and heard the music and saw them in the dance studio and thought these girls were nuts. I was scrolling up and started seeing them over and over again. So I researched Hiplet ballet flats online and saw some of the ads they were in like the Old Navy and Mercedes-Benz ads and featured in Japan and other places. Then I saw that they were based here in Chicago and I was like, whoa that’s a story to be told.

At the beginning, the concept was that I would make a full clip of them. I wanted to shoot it at the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago because it was a white establishment a hundred years ago. And I want to put black girls in this beautiful cultural center, and let them do their thing in a place they couldn’t have been a hundred years ago. But once we got the cost of renting that space back, I knew we couldn’t do it.

So we ended up finding a gym on the south side, the Grand Ballroom, which is at 64th and Cottage Grove. You won’t even notice it if you drive or walk past, but if you look up you can see the beautiful terracotta. The story grew when I went, at least once a week, to the studio to film the girls and watch them rehearse and practice just to see how they move and see their personalities so that I get to know different angles and areas. to watch out for. . Homer, he’s the founder of Hiplet, and I was having a casual conversation and he told me how these girls were going through. Every time they post something online, people laugh at them, but these same people are imitating what they are doing. He comes from the dance community. People of different races look at them and see that they don’t do traditional ballet, so they talk about it. So I decided to give the girls the floor: we are going to film them, but we are also going to let them talk about the adversity they often encounter. This is what changed the film’s path a bit being a music video. That’s what made me realize how much I wanted it to be a short film and a documentary, but with the feel of a music video.

Daniels: How long did the shoot take?

Wright: Filming took about 12 hours a day. We started charging around eight in the morning and wrapped up with the girls around eight in the evening. It was a bit longer for us, but the girls were there all day. It was a lot of rehearsals. When the girls arrived they knew what they needed and we knew what we needed to do regarding the installation of the lights and the blocking.

Daniels: I want to go back to blocking. I think what’s great about your movie is that you can feel the energy of the dance. How did you get to this point where you got the right angles to bring the live energy to the camera?

Wright: My DP, Dan Frantz, and I would go to the studio where the girls were rehearsing and we would film some parts of the performance. It was a month before the shoot. We would sit down and determine the best angle for the camera location and lighting patterns. We also went to the ballroom and took some photos. I knew where I wanted to place the girls. I knew some of the angles I wanted to achieve based on their choreography. But it was a collaboration between him and me.

We were rushing against the clock to get some things as we only had the location for one day. But my goal was to really capture the energy of ballerinas. Make sure they make eye contact. Whenever the camera came in I made sure to tell them to interact with the camera. If he is near you, look at the lens, look through as if you are on stage and someone is looking you in the eye in a crowd. The camera is the crowd.

Daniels: And now your film is part of the Scene in color film series. How did you hear about this opportunity and what attracted you?

Wright: Funny, I didn’t know until they contacted me. And I was completely blown away. Even when talking about it right now, I’m still in shock because it’s all surreal. They said they saw the movie and really loved it. And I was like: me, really? It’s great that they like the movie. About three weeks later they gave me the details and I thought it was amazing. I remember making the movie public in February on Vimeo and it ended up becoming a Vimeo staff choice and then went viral. A month later, NBC contacted me.

Daniels: How do you feel about having a producer like Will Packer as a mentor?

Wright: It’s an amazing feeling to have someone who is a powerhouse within the industry and within the black community as a mentor. Even hearing me say that, it seems unreal. Just being able to choose your brain and having the ability to ask what to do in this situation, in certain situations, or do you think it’s a good idea, can only help my career in an extremely positive way. Maybe he can give some insight into his experience. He may be able to point me in a direction that could give me more visibility. I’m extremely excited to just be able to chat with him.

Daniels: What advice or advice has Will given you so far?

Wright: I asked him what is his favorite movie that he has ever made, the one that left him the most memories. He said Crush the yard. In short, he wanted to make this film to inspire people. Being able to hear that from him lets me know I’m doing the right thing. My goal as a filmmaker is to inspire people through the lens. And if that can’t change the world, at least I’ll open a person’s eyes. Will also said that he enjoyed the movie and that I was where I was supposed to be. To hear that as a promising filmmaker, as a black filmmaker, you know, hearing Will Packer say I’m where I’m supposed to be, it’s extremely crazy, man. It overwhelmed me. It solidified me as a filmmaker in my eyes and in my heart.

Daniels: What do you hope people take away from Hiplet?

Wright: I was born and raised in Chicago, and Chicago always has a negative light on us. I want people to be able to see these black girls on TV, on their phones and on their computers to see how, number one, beautiful they are; number two, how they take the ballet in a totally different direction by not changing the ballet but adding a touch to it. I want it to be motivating for black boys and girls to see someone who looks like you, who does something that changes the world of ballet by making a difference.

See more short films and meet more filmmakers from Scene in the color film series.


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