Watch This New Work Inspired By The Plight of Immigrants

We here at DancePlug feel strongly that dance - and art in general - is more than way to express yourself; it’s a form that can be used to draw attention to important issues and incite discussion and, hopefully, change. Today, we’re taking a look at a work that was recently performed at hip- hop’s VIBE Dance Competition in LA.

This piece is an emotional look at the struggles that immigrants all over the world face as they seek a better life for themselves and their families. Using projections, intense lighting, a creative set piece, and of course movement, it highlights the danger and fear that thousands have encountered. 

Side note - this piece was put together in only five rehearsals over ten days. Kudos to the creative team and performers! 

The piece was created by choreographic duo (and real-life husband and wife) Keone & Mari. You may have recognized them from Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, Mark Ronson, So You Think You Can Dance, the Ellen Show, or Dancing with the Stars. While they are both working artists and teachers, their "continuous goal is to share impactful art through storytelling and movement that can inspire others to do the same."

A note from the choreographers regarding the work: This is “a piece inspired by our grandparents who came to America to make a new life for their families and the many displaced humans around the world who are trying to do the same.”

Iconic Choreographer and Dancer Donald McKayle Passes Away

Donald McKayle

As heaven gains another angel, we sadly say goodbye to an amazing man, choreographer, and dancer. Mr. Donald McKayle lived from 1930 to 2018, leaving behind many heavy hearts who were impacted and changed by his life’s work.

McKayle was born on July 6th, 1930, in East Harlem, where he grew up in an integrated neighborhood that opened his eyes to racial issues and prejudice. He actively engaged in education and strived to learn more about African American history by joining the Frederick Douglass Society. Dance finally came into his life after seeing Pearl Primus perform, where he became enamored with the potential of movement. He joined The New Dance Group on scholarship in 1947, and he began formal training in modern, ballet, tap, Afro-Cuban, and more. From there, he was unstoppable, and began choreographing after just a year of training!

McKayle was known for his work on Broadway, TV, and for his choreography that addresses social and racial issues. Works like Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder (1959), and Games (1951) are powerful examples of how his choreography opened windows to someone else’s world, allowing the audience to see the hurt, pain, and suffering of people from various ethnic backgrounds. He was a true change maker and light amongst the dance world, and his impact made waves in the art community.Towards the end of his life, McKayle became a professor at the University of Californi,a Irvine, where he leaves behind several generations of college students who have learned his work. His choreography and legacy lives on through his students and the many lives that were impacted by his life’s journey. McKayle was one of the greats, and as dancers, it is our job to remember the greats, respect their life’s work, and pass on the lessons they teach us. 

Where Ballet Meets The Beach

If you follow the ABT dancers on social media, then you already know that some of the crew is in the Philippines right now! The ballerinas and ballerinos are supporting fellow Principal dancer, Stella Abrera, who organized a fundraising gala for her native country. However, Instagram has proven that this trip isn’t all work and no play. In fact, it seems that the company is having a fairly lovely holiday.

Company members like Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston have posted some pictures and videos of “vacation.” The truth is, no dancer vacations like a normal person. You may wear a swimsuit, but let’s face it, underneath the added SPF we all still have the itch to move and groove. Well that’s exactly what the ABT crew had in mind… They may have looked like they were going to lounge around with a tropical drink in hand, but in reality, they were planning on getting in some barre work on the sand bar!

What can we take away from this display of beach ballet? Dedication! Even when you take time off far away from home, you can always find a time and space to dance. Although one thing is clear, it looks like it’s way more fun with friends by your side.

photos from Instagram @stellaabreradetsky and @isabellaboylston

Dance Theatre of Harlem Honors MLK

Dance Theatre of Harlem - photo credit: Rachel Neville

Fifty years ago today, iconic civil rights champion Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. To honor his memory and his incredible work, New York-based Dance Theatre of Harlem has created a video to remind us of the importance and power of activism. 

In the video, which is directed by Daniel Schloss, several young dancers watch a television screen depicting clips of some of history's most iconic events, such as former President Lyndon. B. Johnson announced the death of MLK, and protesters working to release a jailed Nelson Mandela. There are also clips highlighting the rise of the dance company; naturally, the kids begin to dance to a song by Billy Porter called "Keep Moving", showing the power of dance and art as a form of activism, emphasizing that 'The Movement Continues.'

The company's artistic director Virginia Johnson spoke to Huffington Post about the video, saying that the company has used art to “manifest change” since it was founded in 1969. She also spoke about the importance of the company's work, saying that “as an ethnically diverse ballet company, every time the curtain goes up on one of our performances, we celebrate what is possible through access and opportunity. In a time of political disarray, art can be a clear voice that reveals the path to take.”

The company will also begin their annual Spring performances at New York City Center today, running until April 7th. The Vision Gala, which opens the first performance, will reflect on Dr. King's legacy, and how his assassination shaped our modern culture. The company will perform a variety of work, including excerpts from Robert Garland's Brahms Variations, Marius Petipa's Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, and a new work by Darrel Grand Moultrie called Harlem on My Mind.

photo  credit: Rachel Neville