D.I.R.T. Festival Shoots into 2021 with ‘Harriet’s Gun’

Dance Mission Theater presents a streaming program in celebration of the Black experience.

As we reckon with the 30th anniversary of the Rodney King beatings (March 3, 1991) and the one-year anniversary of Breonnna Taylor’s killing at the hands of police (March 13, 2020), a group of Black artists from around the country are joining forces with Dance Mission Theater to present an offering of joy and hope through movement.

Dance In Revolt(ing) Times, or D.I.R.T., is a biennial “social political” dance festival. In 2021 the event is going virtual with a program titled D.I.R.T. Festival: Harriet’s Gun, Shapeshifting Towards a Radically Imagined Black Future. Audiences can tune into online screenings on March 5 and March 13.

Harriet’s Gun co-curators Adia Tamar Whitaker and Sarah Crowell are teaming up with eight soloists and eight dance companies from around the U.S., including San Francisco’s Embodiment Project and Zaccho Dance Theater. The East Bay is represented by Oakland’s Afro Urban Society, as well as Destiny Arts.

Crowell, the artistic director emeritus at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, believes that the arts are an essential component of the journey to social justice. “The curation of the 2021 D.I.R.T. Festival is itself an invocation, a prayer, and a calling in, that is not taken lightly,” Crowell says. “It is an opportunity for all of us to construct a portal for spirit to enter. It is a space for us to get and give.”

Crowell’s work with the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company, a troupe for teens to co-create original movement and theater productions based on their own experiences, continues to perform for up to 20,000 audience members a year at conferences, festivals, and other community events.

The two nights will feature expressive storytelling through dance, including the Las Vegas-based Molodi, who use their bodies as instruments, as well as the refined intricacies of a New Orleans brass procession — or “second line” — from Michelle N. Gibson and the Brass. Along with prophetic spoken word of DC’s Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Harriet’s Gun presents an eclectic quilt of waves, resonance, and motion. San Francisco storyteller Rhodessa Jones will be spinning the web for the evening as the Mistress of Ceremonies. 

Harriet Tubman always carried a gun and an ivory-handled sword on her liberation missions. “Harriet’s gun was insurance, protection, a wand, an anchor, a shield, an antenna, a sage bundle, a way out, a motivator, and a guard rail,” explains Whitaker, artistic director of Brooklyn based dance theater ensemble Àṣẹ Dance Theatre Collective.

“In the same way, Harriet’s Gun, Shapeshifting Towards a Radically Imagined Black Future, offers a collective space for artists to define, speak and move power into the Black future and out into the world.”

Virtual performances are March 5 and March 13. Tickets are available for purchase now. For more information visit Dance Mission Theater or call 415-826-4441.

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