News: National Black Arts Festival announces 2015 line-up with focus on the art of dance

Step Afrika! will be one of the headliners at this year's  National Black Arts Festival.
Step Afrika! will be one of the headliners at this year's National Black Arts Festival.
Step Afrika! will be one of the headliners at this year's  National Black Arts Festival.
Step Afrika! will be one of the headliners at this year’s National Black Arts Festival.

From the sacred ring shout to tap, reinvented through funk and hip-hop; from the fiery Cuban Rumba to concert modern dance; from the South African Gumboot dance to Stepping of American black college fraternities, the vibrancy of African dance has resonated as far across the globe as its diaspora.

The art of dance, intensely physical and rhythmically charged — evanescent, but as old as human culture — will take the spotlight during this year’s National Black Arts Festival during a three-month season that begins July 11.

Festival offerings will focus on the artists who have shaped and defined the discipline across a range of dance forms, born of African culture and spanning from the 18th century to today.

A concert series will feature (in chronological order) master tap artist Savion Glover; Step Afrika!, based in Washington, D.C.; the revered Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company; and Malpaso Dance Company from Cuba. Conversations and master classes with the artists will surround each concert. 

The performance series is nested inside a festival lineup that includes a gala tribute, two art gallery hops and a participatory dance symposium curated by African dance scholar Thomas DeFrantz, featuring an impressive roster of local and internationally regarded scholars and artists who will engage in conversations and demonstrations, capped by an Olympic-style youth poetry slam competition. 

Savion Glover
Savion Glover

The film series, “Representing Us: Black Dance in Film,” will highlight the history of dance performance on the screen, spanning from the Nicholas Brothers and Katherine Dunham in 1943’s Stormy Weather, to clowning and crumping in David LaChappelle’s 2005 Rize, a documentary on the youth dance movement in South Central Los Angeles. 

In its 27th season, the NBAF is considered the oldest American organization devoted to presenting arts and artists of African descent across music, dance, film, visual arts theater and literary arts disciplines.

The 2015 edition marks the festival’s second year of a five-year plan, developed in consultation with Bill Egan of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The plan envisions an organization restructuring to bolster its fundraising power, with a stronger thrust toward education and programming designed to strengthen the festival’s profile at international, national and local levels.

If, in recent years preceding the 2014 season, the NBAF experienced instability due to debt, uneven branding and fast-changing leadership, what better arts discipline to bring the organization back in balance, with a renewed focus on sustainability, education and a clarified sense of identity? 

Here’s the lineup:

NBAF Gala, For the Love of Dance!

Saturday, July 11, 7 p.m.

The evening will include tributes to dance luminaries Geoffrey Holder, Mary Hinkson and Carmen de Lavallade. Emceed by veteran news anchor Monica Pearson and located at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta.

* * *

Visual Arts Program:

Gallery Hop I: “Intersecting Disciplines: Visual/Art/Dance”

Friday, July 17, 6 p.m.

Subscribers are bused to three local galleries featuring receptions, tours and performances by local dancers. Participating galleries include:

Bill Lowe Gallery
Exhibition: Ancestors: Origin and Return

Alan Avery Art Company
Exhibition: Pursuit: Almost Drowned (new work by Michi Meko)

ZuCot Gallery
Exhibition:  Spectrum featuring Julio Mejia and Steve Prince

Tickets: $30 ($25 if purchased before July 1)

 * * *

Symposium: 

“Dance Across the Diaspora: A Historical Lens on a Black Cultural Movement”

Saturday, July 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Developed and moderated by Professor Thomas F. DeFrantz, the day-long symposium examines the history and global impact of dance forms spanning from the 18th century to the present. The participatory event will feature Yvonne Daniel, professor emerita, Smith College (speaking on Afro-Caribbean dance); Halifu Osumare, chair, African American Studies, UC Davis (speaking on historical forms of black social dance); T. Lang, founder/choreographer T. Lang Dance, assistant professor, Spelman College; John Perpener, professor emeritus, Florida State University (speaking on dance iconoclast Eleo Pomare); Nena Gilreath, founder/dancer/choreographer, Ballethnic; A’Keitha Carey, independent artist (teaching a Carib-funk dance workshop); StoryBoard Pete, independent artist (international celebrity in street dance) and Onye Ozuzu, chair and dean, Columbia College Chicago (teaching a specialized Technology of the Circle).

Tickets: $75 (includes free admission to the High Museum and master class with Savion Glover),  $20 Students

Location: High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta

 * * *

Master Class with Savion Glover

Saturday, July 18, 12 p.m.

Tickets: $20 (Free for registered symposium participants)

Location: High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta

 * * *

Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Final Competition

Saturday, July 18, 8 to 10 p.m.

NBAF partners with Youth Speaks, the nation’s leading spoken word organization for youth, in its 18th annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. 

Tickets to Poetry Slam Final Competition: $5 Youth, $15 Adults

Location: Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta

 * * *

Spotlight Series Performance:

Performance and Conversation With Savion Glover – “SoLe Sanctuary”

Sunday, July 19, 6 p.m.  

Tickets: $30 and up ($20 students)

Location: Rialto Center for the Arts, Georgia State University, 80 Forsyth St. NW, Atlanta

 * * *

Spotlight Series Performance:  

Step Afrika! – “Symphony in Step

Saturday, August 29, 6 p.m.

Based on a new musical score and through its performance of “Symphony in Step,” Step Afrika! offers Atlanta audiences a groundbreaking merger of stepping and classical music in partnership with a local symphony orchestra and gospel choir.  

Members of Step Afrika! will offer a master class for youth, pre-professionals and lovers of dance of all ages and levels of talent.

Tickets: $30 and up ($20 students)

Location: Center Stage Theater, 1374 West Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta

 * * *

Master Class with Ronald K. Brown

Friday, September 11

Ronald K. Brown offers a master class for youth, pre-professionals and lovers of dance of all ages and levels of talent who are inspired by his innovative, historically and spiritually-rooted modern dance and choreography. A 2015 recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award among many others awards and honors, Brown offers transformational classes and workshops featuring the African and contemporary elements of his blended style.

 * * *

Spotlight Series Performance:  

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company and Pre-Performance Conversation

Sunday, September 13, 5 p.m. Pre-Performance Conversation; 6 p.m. performance

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company, known for its fusion of African dance with contemporary choreography and storytelling that combines Cuban, Caribbean, West African and modern American dance movement. 

Tickets: $30 and up ($20 students)

Location: Ferst Center for the Arts, Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Dr., Atlanta

 * * *

Master Class with Malpaso Dance Company

Friday, September 18

Members of the Malpaso Dance Company offer a master class for youth, pre-professionals and lovers of dance of all ages and levels of talent.

 * * *

Spotlight Series Performance:

Malpaso Dance Company and Pre-Performance Conversation about the “State of Dance in Cuba Today”

Saturday, September 19, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $30 and up ($20 students)

Location: Ferst Center for the Arts, Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Dr. Atlanta

 * * *

Film Program:

Film Screenings and Conversations: Representing Us: Black Dance in Film  

Curated by Stephane Dunn, Associate Professor and Director of Morehouse College’s Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS) program. 

Screening of Stormy Weather (1943)

Sunday, July 26, 3 p.m.

The classic musical film Stormy Weather starring Lena Horne and Ben Robinson presents an amazing array of music and dance performances. The film features a performance by the Nicholas brothers, one of the most famous dance scenes in the history of cinema, and showcases performance and choreography by Katherine Dunham and her dancers.

Discussants:  Dr. Stephane Dunn, Morehouse College with Dr. Alessandra Raengo, Emory University  

Tickets: Free

Location: Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta

 * * *

Screening of School Daze (1988)

Thursday, August 27, 5 p.m.

This is director Spike Lee’s second feature film and a sharply pointed interrogation of skin color politics at fictional Mission College.  Lee’s now iconic modern musical offers a dazzling display of modern dance numbers.  

Discussants: Dr. Stephane Dunn, Morehouse College with African American Film Critics Association founder and president, Gil Robertson

Tickets: Free

Location:  Bank of America Auditorium, Shirley Massey Leadership Building, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive, SW, Atlanta

 * * *

Screening of Rize (2005)

Thursday, September 10, 5:30 p.m.

The screening features the popular, award winning documentary film Rize, in which director and artist David LaChapelle examines South Central Los Angeles youth dance movement and follows the subculture of clowning and krumping.  Popular and critically acclaimed, the film draws parallels between street and African dance forms while mimicking mid-20th century anthropological ritual dance films.

Discussants: Dr. Stephane Dunn, Morehouse College with Rize director David LaChapelle  

Tickets: Free

Location:  Bank of America Auditorium, Shirley Massey Leadership Building, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive, SW, Atlanta

 * * *

Gallery Hop II: “Intersecting Disciplines: Visual/Art/Dance”

Friday, September 18, 6 p.m.

Subscribers are offered a hosted private reception, viewing and tour of the current exhibition, given the opportunity to meet artists, socialize and enjoy dance performances by local dancers featuring different form of traditional, social, modern and contemporary dance at each venue. Participating galleries:

Hammonds House Museum
Exhibition: Albert Chong

Arnika Dawkins Gallery
Exhibition: Gordon Parks American Champion

Tickets: $30 ($25 if purchased before August 15)

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