Eight Powerful Dance Works to Come Out of the Black Lives Matter Movement

June 15, 2020

Art can be a critical part of social justice activism. And the recent Black Lives Matter protests have given rise to all kinds of dance art, with Black dancers and choreographers using their bodies to speak important truths. Below are eight must-watch dance works by Black artists that address this moment of uprising.

“This Is America,” by Jakevis Thomason

Thomason choreographed this piece as a way of contributing to the movement and showing his community’s reality. He’s long been drawn to Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” and felt the song perfectly fit his vision for the video. “It’s simple, it’s literal, and it’s effective,” Thomason says. “I didn’t want to sugarcoat anything. I just don’t think there’s any room for that. It might make some people uncomfortable, but that’s the point.”

“Say It,” by Sheopatra Jones

Jones created “Say It” before this current moment of protest, but re-shared the work recently. The song, “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Moane and Wondaland, lists the names of Black men and women who have been victims of police brutality and other racist crimes. Jones and her dancers compel you to watch—and to acknowledge the injustice of these deaths.

“I Can’t Breathe,” by Marcelino Sambé

Sambé, a Royal Ballet principal, created this simple and moving piece, set to a composition by Thom Yorke, as a memorial to George Floyd’s last words.

“Listen Feel Dance,” by Alain “Hurrikane” Lauture

Lauture prefers to communicate his feelings through movement, saying it’s more honest and less frightening than speaking with his voice. When he filmed this four-minute freestyle, he was intentional about the song and clothing choices, wanting them to reflect today’s reality, as well as who he is as a person. “My whole being is a statement of being proud of who I am, my Blackness,” he says. “People like to say that we are all one, but we are different. And being different is absolutely beautiful.”

“Changes,” by Norah, Yarah, and Rosa

Dutch sisters Norah, Yarah, and Rosa Mukanga have been sharing self-choreographed videos on Instagram since 2018. This work, set to 2Pac’s “Changes,” is a reminder that the younger generation is an integral part of this movement, and that its members’ voices should be heard.

“A Black Man’s Heart,” by Michael Frye

Performed in the middle of a New York City protest, and set to Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up”, Frye’s solo expresses defeat and despair, but also strength and energy—the energy he needs to stand up for his community.

“Say It Loud,” by Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Affion Crockett

Boss and Crockett responded to the movement with a joyful work. Choreographed to James Brown’s “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” it uses Locking to honor their culture and their identity.

“Reflect the Times,” by Mike Tyus

Tyus, a founding member of Jacob Jonas The Company, choreographed to the words of Nina Simone: “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” It’s clear Tyus feels called to do just that through his work.