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Maryland Artists to Shine in February 16th Celebration of Black Dance at the Gordon Center

The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, in partnership with the Baltimore Black Dance Collective, will host CELEBRATION: Uplifting and Honoring the Culture and History of Black Dance on February 16, 2023, at 7:00 pm.

VTDance II in “Pursuit of Happiness" Photo credit: Nick Hood Photography

The show will bring together professional dance companies from around the region and will also showcase youth artists from Baltimore County Public Schools and from area studios.

Camille Weanquoi, Founder and Executive Director of Baltimore Black Dance Collective, has played a key role in curating the performance, working with the Gordon Center team to create an evening that celebrates the diversity and richness of Black dance. "Baltimore’s dance scene encompasses a vibrant and eclectic mix of many styles of dance," Weanquoi says. "Our intergenerational dance event will showcase a wonderful mix of professional dance companies along with young artists who will be honoring the rich history and culture of African-Americans through dance. Our audience members will be able to enjoy works that center joy, struggles, triumphs, strength, and legacy."

Baltimore's Full Circle Dance Company will present a work by Hope B. Byers called When the Village Comes Home to the Yard. The work is a celebration of the homecoming traditions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Byers says, "I hope the audience will think about Black joy, unity, and excellence and about how these characteristics, exemplified through the HBCU homecoming tradition, contribute to a broader purpose of liberty."

Photo: Brion McCarthy Photography

Vincent Thomas, founder and artistic director of award-winning company VTDance, will present Man’s World an excerpt from his current project Shadows. This duet explores various essences of the construct of masculinity. "I look forward to sharing a powerful work that will speak to a wide and diverse audience finding resonance and meaning," Thomas says.

Dance Baltimore in Maria Broom's "Suite: Brown Rice." Photo by Michael Bruce

Cheryl Goodman is founding director of the nonprofit organization Dance Baltimore. Her organization will present Suite: Brown Rice, originally choreographed over 40 years ago by Baltimore's Maria Broom to a tune by the late, great jazz violinist Noel Pointer. Goodman says, "Suite: Brown Rice takes the audience through a visual evolution--from a peaceful world of nature and beauty to the arrival of human aggression until the advent of creative peacemakers brings us back to a place of unity and harmony."

The evening will also highlight youth dancers, including students of the Morton Street Dance Center performing a work by Director Donna L. Jacobs that honors Harriet Tubman. Jacobs says, "It is so important for both our young people and audiences to think deeply about our history. Choreography is one way of exploring a subject deeply. These students really understand what they are dancing about."

Photo credit: Donner Photography

Honors dance students of Stephanie Harris, Dance Director for Pikesville Middle School, will present a liturgical dance. Harris says, "Religion in African American culture is very important, and this is something my students and I were able to share in common when working on this piece." Harris says she and her students are honored to participate and do not take the opportunity lightly. "I think it is very important for them to be fully immersed in this experience and to be around other dancers who look like them, because this is not something they can experience every day."

The inclusion of young dancers is essential, according to Weanquoi. "It is our intention to make sure our youth can see the ways in which dance can take them very far in life," she says. "We will give young people a chance to see firsthand how professionals handle themselves as artists backstage and onstage. They'll get to see artists living and working in their craft. Our youth will benefit greatly from seeing the representation of professional artists that they can look to as an inspiration as they grow and learn in their own artistry."

Sara Shalva is Chief Arts Officer of the Gordon Center and of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. She says, "We decided to focus on the history and legacy of Black dance because the Gordon Center sits at the intersection of art and activism, and we believe in amplifying ideas, art forms, artists, and creators who may be underrepresented. Audiences should expect to see different genres, techniques, music choices and choreography. They should expect to see lots of different body types and skin tones, different hair styles, gender expressions, and costumes. A celebration of what is, what was, and what could be."

"As a recipient of funding from the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Department of Education," Shalva explains, "we are aware that we need to be intentional about inviting and making space for artists in our area, uplifting their contributions, and celebrating their creativity. We also hope the dancers will meet each other and create community over the course of the event, gaining exposure to each other, and creating lasting relationships that ultimately strengthen local dance schools, programs and companies."

Dance Baltimore in Maria Broom's "Suite: Brown Rice." Photo by Michael Bruce


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