For a New Series, Black Artists in Dance Tell Their Stories

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In the absence of live dance performances, interviews with artists in the field, presented online, have become a way to stay connected until it’s safe to gather again. A new series in that spirit, Black Dance Stories, favors storytelling over interviewing, while giving artists a chance to meet and chat the way they might have in a theater lobby.

Created by the performer, producer and dance writer Charmaine Warren, with the dancers Kimani Fowlin and Nicholas Hall, the series features two guests per episode who overlap for a few minutes about halfway through. Ms. Warren, a big-hearted host beloved by her peers — as the delightful first two episodes indicate — mostly cedes the floor (or, rather, the screen) to the artists, inviting them to tell any story, however they wish, about their lives in dance. The virtual gatherings shed light on lineages, personal and cultural, and on the importance of laughter in a time of isolation.

Ms. Warren’s emphasis on levity — she keeps a glass of wine nearby and urges guests to do the same — goes hand in hand with the project’s deeper archival and educational purposes.

“Historically, Black stories, Black dance, are written out of dance history,” Ms. Fowlin, also a choreographer and educator, said in an interview with Ms. Warren and Mr. Hall. “And so I think it’s important, it’s empowering, for young dancers and dancers of all ages to hear these stories and to hear what it took for someone to come through.”

The luminous lineup of future guests includes Cynthia Oliver and Marjani Forté-Saunders (Thursday); Rennie Harris and J. Bouey (July 23); and Kyle Marshall and Okwui Okpokwasili (July 30). Episodes are streamed on Thursdays at 6 p.m. Eastern, live on YouTube. Find details about how to tune in and read about the artists at @blackdancestories on Instagram. The series is free to watch, but donations to the Venmo account @BlackDanceStories are encouraged.

In 2018, three veteran choreographers and longtime friends came together for two nights of improvisation, a fleeting and momentous event called “Relations.” Presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, it featured Bebe Miller, Ralph Lemon and Ishmael Houston-Jones sharing space for an hour, a simple framework for their collective and complex brilliance.

People who were there, and people who weren’t, wondered whether it would happen again. It didn’t, but on Saturday, the museum will host a “Relations” watch party on Facebook, with footage from the performance and a moderated live chat. (The recording will also be available on Vimeo through Monday.) See mcachicago.org for details and contextualizing materials, including a new essay by Tara Aisha Willis, a curator at the museum and the main organizer of “Relations.”

The great choreographer Trisha Brown created her early works with no music, just the accompaniment of ambient noise. By the early 1980s, she began branching out in her use of sound, if subtly at first. In “Opal Loop / Cloud Installation #72503” (1980), four dancers move to the whisper of water passing through high-pressure nozzles, also the source of the mist that fills the stage. The visual design, by the Japanese fog artist Fujiko Nakaya, becomes one with Brown’s vaporous movement.

Performed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2010 by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, “Opal Loop” opens the second installment of PlayBAC, in which the center presents videos from its vast archive. It will be available at bacnyc.org/explore from 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday until July 21.

As a Black choreographer working in ballet, a predominantly white field that’s slow to change, Jeremy McQueen rarely saw reflections of his own experiences onstage. In 2016, he took matters into his own hands, founding the Black Iris Project, which brings artists together to create new ballet works celebrating diversity and Black history.

At the invitation of Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater star, Black Iris brought “Madiba,” their 20-minute work about the life of Nelson Mandela, to the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America festival in 2017. On Saturday and Sunday, in honor of what would have been Mandela’s 102nd birthday, Mr. McQueen’s local television station, BronxNet, will broadcast the ballet at BronxNet.tv. The video will also be available on the Black Iris website, Monday though July 24. More information is at blackirisproject.org.

Credit…via Haus of Sweat

If you need a jolt of dance aerobics to jump-start your day, look no further than the classes of Viva Soudan, a dancer and fitness instructor whose capacity to motivate — and to inspire with retro fashion — knows no bounds. On a recent Saturday morning, Ms. Soudan, in a colorful high-cut leotard over spandex shorts, led about 30 participants through one of her signature “Bodyroll” workouts on Zoom. “We’re here to shed emotional weight,” she told us. Speaking for myself, it worked.

Set to a genre-spanning playlist of 1980s and ’90s hits, the class is intended for movers of all ages, levels and body types. This week’s Thursday and Saturday sessions, both at 10 a.m. Eastern, will be livestreamed from Maria Hernandez Park (weather permitting) in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for anyone in the area seeking a socially distanced outdoor activity. A donation of $5 to $25 per person is suggested. Find more information at hausofsweat.com.





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