9th Annual: Fallen Heroes, Rising Stars: A Juneteenth Celebration Through Dance

by Tonya Amos

CA

Grown Women Dance Collective uses dance, music & US history to build cultural bridges, educate, empower & enable social impact.   Using arts & culture, we create common ground for dialogue between audience members of different ages, races and economic backgrounds, deepen the connections between communities that are often disconnected and isolated from one another, & create spaces for empowerment, healing, connection & joy.  Sharing of ideas occurs, stereotypes are challenged, commonalities are discovered, and people are driven to take some type of action to engage in their communities in new and dynamic ways. 

Through exquisite dance & theater-rocking music, this inspiring, uplifting, empowering, and family-friendly 9th annual production honors the under-acknowledged celebration of Juneteenth, a date in history marking the liberation of African Americans from slavery.  Using Juneteenth as an anchor, we teach and celebrate history, frame where we are now, and where we need to push towards in the future. 

Grown Women Dance Collective's 9th annual Fallen Heroes, Rising Stars: A Juneteenth Celebration Through Dance, features powerhouse performances honoring musical greats and civic leaders whose legacies impact and inspire. The all-star cast includes former members of renown dance companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Martha Graham Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, as well as Broadway-stage veterans.  The electrifying performances by dancers over 40 include tributes to Fats Domino, Natalie Cole, Phife Dawg, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Prince, and more. This family- friendly, educational, uplifting, can't-sit-still-in-your-seat celebration of who we are as Americans has the audience of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds reflecting on history and where we go as a nation, while singing to itself for weeks. 

In addition to our annual season of full length Juneteenth concerts in Oakland, GWDC performs in community celebrations and teaches free classes throughout the year in San Francisco, Alameda & Contra Costa Counties.  We sponsor low income children of Antioch, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley & Richmond to take classes & participate in production activities. We teach dance and movement, Pilates for Back Pain, and Fall Prevention for Seniors to enthusiastic, determined, financially challenged community members to expose them to the arts, improve self confidence and self esteem, diminish pain, and imagine new possibilities.

In a time where cross cultural misunderstandings, social justice issues & racial equity have a renewed understanding of importance, Grown Women Dance Collective’s work brings people together who may never normally interact. This incredible celebration of African American culture & US history uses a common love of world class musical genius, with the exquisite artistry of performers over 40, to create a healing, common ground. Audience members of all backgrounds engage each other & experience connections in the theater in a powerful way.     

Whether seasoned concert dance attendees or have never been to a theater, people are profoundly impacted by this beautiful weaving of history, social justice, community empowerment & celebration.

Through this art, people leave the theater having learned things that they hadn’t known before, engage in animated, thoughtful conversations, and feel deeply empowered to try to figure out how to become part of making a change.

This year's venue, The Malonga Casquelourd Arts Center, has been a staple in the downtown Oakland arts scene for nearly 100 years. We’re proud that many people come to our concert as their first experience with the performing arts, fall in love with concert dance, then continue to explore theater & dance afterwards.

The project impacts children:

“Thank you to the drummers and dancers.  It was lots of fun. I liked the flying and the music.  I felt free.” E. Beltran, 5 years old “I liked the show because it helped to the understanding of Black and music culture and what is hidden and not taught in school. I liked the part when all the dancers came together to dance. It felt like there was no violence in the world, only brothers and sisters as one." - 15 years old“Mommy, I get it.  Juneteenth is Black people’s Seder, but they only got freed from slavery like a hundred & fifty years ago!”- 8 year old  "I had no idea that you could tell a story with your body like that. It wasn't at all like music videos".  - 17 year old “You just taught a year of history in 2.5 hours”- High school history teacher.  “We’ve been trying to get a sense of pride & integrity into the young men in our program for 2 years.  You just got into them, what we’ve been trying to do, in one night.” - Leader of African American mentoring program  

The project impacts Grown Ups: 

“This show is so important. The dancing & music was beautiful, but what I just learned about America was mind blowing. My family immigrated from China during the revolution. I had no idea that Asians & Blacks had so much in common.” - Middle Aged audience member  

“My family has been eating dinner together every night since the concert...we’re talking about history & what it means to be an American. My kids suddenly want to talk to me, & they keep teaching me about Black history that they are learning in school that my generation never learned”. - Mother of 2 High School daughters  

"I loved the performance, it was very moving and powerful, and it felt sacred and nourishing... a spiritual cleanse!" - Civil Rights photographer

"Absolutely BEAUTIFUL show! I was not sure what to expect but I was moved to laughter, to sing, to cry, to inquire and to look deeper into myself and be even more determined to use whatever gifts and talents I have to leave this world (the next generation) in a better place than it is now..." - Community Organizer

“I’ve waited for this show my entire life” - 89 years old, Elayne Jones, barrier breaker in classical music

The project prompts people to take action: 

“Juneteenth inspired me. Since your show, I’ve been gathering donations for trafficked children. - Mom

“I’m a lawyer.  I can’t be on the front lines, but I can be legal counsel for people arrested while protesting for our rights. - Attorney

All monies from Hatchfund will go directly to expose children to dance, music, and US history in a fun, uplifting, and dynamic way.  

Thank you!

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