Tag: African-American dance

“The Prancing Elites Project” Gets Green Light for 2nd Season on Oxygen

The cast of Oxygen’s “The Prancing Elites Project” reality show  (Photo: OXYGEN.COM)
Get ready to see more sparkly leotards and the fiercest J-setting dance moves because Oxygen just greenlit a second season of The Prancing Elites Project.

The docuseries explores the world of competitive dancing through the lives of an all-male dance troupe based in Mobile, Alabama. All five members are African American, and a majority of them are gay.

Variety explains how the Prancing Elites were a godsend for the network after it rebranded itself in 2014; the program had the highest-rated series premiere after the rebranding.

That the show has generated such a strong following is also important because gay men are an underrepresented group. This platform gives them an opportunity to tell their own stories instead of being the sidekicks and the “gay” voice of reasoning for hetereosexuals in other reality-TV shows.

Plus, black gay culture has been one of the most appropriated cultures in recent years, with the advent of the Housewives franchise and other reality shows featuring straight women lobbing slang words at one another—words that were created or, at the very least, popularized by African-American gay men.

Season 2 will premiere in 2016; Oxygen is broadening the original 30-minute format to one hour.

article by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele via theroot.com

NYC Dance Performance “FLEXN” Targets Social Injustice

NEW YORK (AP) — An emotionally charged series in New York City is exploring racial and social injustice through dance, photography and public dialogue.

Among the elements of the production opening Wednesday is a stirring performance by 21 African-American dancers whose style of street dance known as “flex” is inspired by events in their own lives as well as larger issues like police-involved shootings of blacks.

The 21 dancers, most of them men ages 18 to 32, will perform at the cavernous Park Avenue Armory as part of a series that includes a panel of experts exploring pressing issues of social and criminal justice and a photo installation described as the single largest documentation of juveniles in solitary confinement in the United States.

“Every one of them has lost someone to a shooting, frequently to a police shooting,” said Peter Sellars, a theater director known for stretching artistic boundaries and the co-director of FLEXN, which runs at the armory through April 4.

The dancers’ first workshop for the commissioned performance began in August — the same month Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men, were killed by police.

During the exercise, two dancers began chasing a third dancer to a far corner of the room where they pretended beating him. He didn’t get up, nothing was said “but everyone in the room knew that Eric Garner was on everyone’s mind,” Sellars said.

“Black young men are killed by police quite often and that story wasn’t going away . it became clear people were really outraged, people were saying something has to change,” Sellars said. “One of the reasons that art exists is to give people a way to express extremely difficult things without violence and to articulate complex feelings.”

“The protest march is powerful but then what?” he said.

FLEXN comes amid a national debate about revisions to police training and policy.

The dancers’ freestyling pieces are based on “flex” a street dance that evolved from a Jamaican style popular in Brooklyn dance hall in the 1990s. It involves a range of styles including flexing, gliding — and “bone-breaking” whereby dancers dislocate parts of their body to make moves “you could not imagine are possible,” Sellars said.

One dance in the production deals with a subway fare beater. A dancer enacts a man jumping over a turnstile and getting into an argument with a police officer. An ensuing altercation ends with the “perpetrator” being shot and leaving his body to comfort his parents.

“What we know is that among those most likely to be victims of violence are young men of color,” said Danielle Sered, director of Common Justice at the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice who will sit on a panel titled “Restorative Justice.” She said she was participating because it was her hope the 11-night series “will be able to raise the urgency of these issues in a way that is not just about the devastation but really pointed toward action.”

Each of the dancers also created a piece about solitary confinement after Sellars invited them to respond to the armory photo installation by Richard Ross, who spent eight years documenting juveniles held in solitary confinement in 34 states.

“Thank God the mayor says it will not happen to 16 to 17 years old,” Sellars said referring to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to eliminate solitary confinement for those inmates and phase out its use for 18- to 21-year-olds by the beginning of next year. He said the dancers’ exploration of the topic gives insight to an issue “that perhaps is easily debated . but we don’t actually realize the weight of.”

Prior to each performance, a half-hour discussion will be led by educators, community leaders and public officials on a range of topics, including reforming Rikers Island, community policing and stop and frisk. Among the participants will be “young people who have been through this and can speak about it,” Sellars said.

“Most Americans treat these issues of violence in black neighborhoods with an imaginary distance,” he said. “It’s extremely important to have personal and grounded views in what is going on day-to-day in these neighborhoods and to hear personal testimony from a range of people.”

Sered added that the combination of the arts and public conversation is “a powerful tool for conveying that — wherever we live and whatever our experience — these issues belong to all of us to experience, to think about, to grapple with and to change.”

article by Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press via bet.com

Debbie Allen Champions Arts Education for Youth, Kicks Off National Tour of “Brothers of the Knight”

DEBBIE_ALLEN_HEADSHOT_tOscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Debbie Allen premiered her new theatrical production Brothers of the Knight at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills last night, kicking off a five-city summer tour.  Turning out to support Allen and her passion for training today’s youth in the arts were actors Jenifer Lewis, Clifton Powell, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo, Darrin Hewitt Henson, New Kids on the Block singer Joey McIntyre and WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie, among others. (Click here to see GBN’s Instagram photos from the event.)

Grammy-winning musician James Ingram wrote the music to this modern adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, where twelve brothers steal away to a magical ballroom and dance every night away unbeknownst to their strict preacher father.

Allen, who produced the show with husband and former NBA All-Star Norm Nixon, went on a five-city tour to find the best young talent possible, then trained and worked closely with them to bring the production to life.

“I opened this audition to kids who are not just in dance schools,” Allen said, but “to people who simply love to dance.”

1391112260644Allen is passionate about arts education for youth and mounts productions like this every year to shed light on its importance as more and more public schools drop arts, music and theatre programs.

“It’s a battle right now. Arts education is disappearing without a trace from the public schools. If you don’t have arts as part of the core of your curriculum, you are not going to be well educated,” Allen recently told WGBH in Boston.

Allen has been fighting to keep dance and the arts available for youth for quite some time.  In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA), a non-profit organization which offers classes in various dance disciplines for youth and teens.

Brothers of the Knight runs until June 22 in Los Angeles, then moves to Boston from June 27-29, Philadelphia July 3-6, Washington DC July 10-13 and Charlotte July 17-20.  To order tickets, go to brothersoftheknight.com.  To sponsor or donate to this show, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Kyle Abraham Hip-Hop Performance Pieces Captivate at Lincoln Center Out of Doors

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh” was performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. (Photo: Ruby Washington/The New York Times)

In a split bill at Damrosch Park Bandshell in New York City, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh” and Kyle Abraham’s “Pavement” explored race, power and, most specifically, what it means to be a black man in contemporary society as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors series last Thursday night. Using spoken word, movement and music, Mr. Joseph takes on the issues confronting black fatherhood in “Word Becomes Flesh,” which program notes describe as a “choreopoem.” First performed in 2003 by Mr. Joseph, the work is a recitation of letters written to his unborn son. Now “Word” is reimagined for an ensemble cast of six. The performers share their fears about bringing a child — first addressed as “heartbeat” and later as “brown boy” — into the world.

Spurts of movement — diagonal runs from the wings; slow, exaggerated steps; and springy jumps — often serve to accentuate the wistful text, which magnifies the idea of multiple, insecure fathers-to-be. “You have an intrinsically intimate relationship with your mother,” one dancer says, “but your dad didn’t check out when you were in the womb.”

For all of its words, Mr. Joseph’s loquacious piece lacks poetry. Mr. Abraham’s “Pavement” is more elegiac, yet the thorny sightlines of the Damrosch bandshell did the piece few favors. Mr. Abraham is a beautiful dancer — unpredictable and spry, with the kind of articulation that is likely to become only more refined and subtle with age — but his packed productions are somewhat unconvincing.  “Pavement,” influenced by the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and John Singleton’s 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood,” is set in the historically black neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. It was there, at 14, that Mr. Abraham first watched the Singleton movie; audio clips from the film are included in the production.

Tension is wonderful in a work, and Mr. Abraham’s propensity for moving his dancers in multiple directions — his movement phrases show a body swirling one way and then the next before evading momentum with a backward hop in arabesque — can be exhilarating. But the push and pull between narrative and dancing throughout “Pavement” gives it a choppy, locomotive feel. The film audio is overkill.

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