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Alvin Ailey Dancers Perform Protest Dance To Beyonce’s Freedom

All across the nation, with the U.S. reeling from a week of heighten racial tension sparked by the deaths of Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Minnesota’s Philando Castile being killed by cops during arrests followed by the deaths of Dallas officers. NBA superstars spoke out in the opening segment of the ESPYs Awards, NY Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony & Chicago Bulls Dwayne Wade each individually spoke out, players on the WNBA team the Minnesota Lynx wore Black Live Matter shirts, in protest during their warm-ups, who can forget Jesse Williams’ powerful speech during the BET Awards, even some blacks in law enforcement have expressed their thoughts via Facebook Live and written statements.

The aftermath of the aforementioned killings hit home for almost everyone. Everyone had an opinion and many expressed it publicly. That was also true for the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a modern dance company named for its founder and first artistic director and choreographer. They also expressed their outrage in the form of a protest dance performed to Beyonce’s controversial song Freedom which cause quite a stir when she performed it at halftime of the Superbowl.

video the company posted to Instagram Tuesday, dancing in response to the violent events, has racked up more than 13,500 views, at the time of posting this. The video garnered hundreds of tweets and comments and been covered in The New York Times, furthering its reach.

Three days after the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two days after the Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and one day after the attack on police in Dallas, the dancers of Alvin Ailey stepped onstage at the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. That night the company, comprised overwhelmingly of black dancers, performed Rennie Harris’s “Exodus,” current artistic director Robert Battle’s “Awakening” and Ailey’s iconic 1960 work “Revelations.”

At last Friday’s performance, “there was a sense of urgency—this is my physical protest,” Battle told Gia Kourlas of the Times. Company member Sean Aaron Carmon felt it too, and decided to offer his colleagues a chance to dance through those feelings, using improvisation as well as material he had begun developing with students in Houston in weeks prior.

In times of struggle, art has a way of breaking through. And recently, several of the dancers of the acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Company decided to come together and get free.

Choreographed by Sean Aaron Carmon, a group of dancers got it in to Beyoncé’s hit, “Freedom.”

As Bey sings, “Freedom, where are you?” the dancers groove to the righteous anthem, using their bodies to tell a story.

Carmon told the New York Times he created the dance to help him, and his fellow dancers, deal with their emotions about the recent tragedies.

“The company was on tour in Saratoga Springs, and I noticed a lot of our dancers were clearly in some type of emotional duress,” he explained. “As the dance progressed, it allowed me to release a lot of my emotions, so I proposed it to the company: If anyone wants to come and dance whatever you’re feeling out, we have 30 minutes — let’s have that moment so we can leave it in the studio and take our fresh selves to the stage.”

Shot in stark black and white, “Freedom” is an emotionally-wrenching, powerful protest in motion.

Carmon said he asked his fellow dancers to “give me everything you have.” And they absolutely delivered.

The result is a powerful 54-second clip (above) featuring more than a dozen company members dancing to “Freedom” by Beyoncé, featuring Kendrick Lamar. The video is shot in black and white because “every shade of brown, tan, white—we’re all gray in black and white,” said Carmon, who hopes to develop the material into a larger piece.

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About AJ Woodson (2369 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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