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Friday, July 12, 2024

First Black Dance Festival busts a move in the Circle City

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The Neon Black Dance Festival debuts June 8 and 9 at the Madame Walker Legacy Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. The first of its kind, Neon Black’s mission is simple: Black joy, Black power and Black excellence.

A dancer in a shiny silver outfit strikes a pose
The Allure Dance company will represent the NEON Black Dance Festival. (Photo/Gary Watson)

The event will be two days of performance by local BIPOC-led dance groups and a workshop offered by Michelle Gibson, a renowned New Orleans-inspired dance leader. Lauren Curry, director of Indy Movement Arts, is excited for both Gibson and the ten dance groups.

“(The festival) is for any age, any experience.” Curry said, “We are very adamant that this is a space for people to connect with each other and connect with the space.”

According to Curry, the Indy Movement Arts chose Gibson to lead the event because of the organic movements that she encourages in her dancing.

“This is monumental. For me to be a part of this convocation is honorable for me,” Gibson said.

Gibbson’s work has been featured by the New York Times and is heavily influenced by her New Orleans upbringing. Her background in the church provides a foundation for her worship of movement and the connectedness of the mind, body and soul.

“I want Indianapolis to embody and understand experience through culture,” Gibson said.

The mind-body connection is featured throughout Gibson’s “Buckshop”, which will be accompanied by a live brass band at the Madame Walker Theatre.

“This is the reason that Indy Movement Arts exists, is to help people understand that there is a different way of thinking about and approaching movement, and that is why producing this dance festival has been so important to me,” Curry said.

The festival aims to inspire young dancers in the city and showcase the talents of dancers of color.

“People of color and specifically Black people in America have been shut out of this more formalized concert dance economy,” Curry said. “Whether it’s the Black body being rejected or it’s Black culture being rejected or devalued, (Black Americans) have so much more to offer with dance.”

Aside from the investment in Black culture, the festival organizers at Indy Movement Arts want the artists and the participants to feel valued.

“I hope that the artists feel inspired to continue making their own work and to continue to be able to make their own opportunities to be presented,” Curry said.

Curry wants the festival to expand the city of Indianapolis as an art-friendly city and to inspire dancers and people of color to consider Indy as a safe space.

“So many people are moving to Chicago, especially artists,” Curry said. “If Indianapolis doesn’t begin to strengthen the cultural and arts infrastructure, that’s going to continue to happen.”

To register for the open workshop and learn more about the Neon Black Dance Festival, visit indymovementarts.org.

Contact Staff Writer Hanna Rauworth at 317-762-7854 or follow her on Instagram at @hanna.rauworth.

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