A Mother’s Rite. A dance of grief after another police killing of an unarmed Black man

Watch “A Mother’s Rite,” a 40-minute film of an original dance by Jeremy McQueen’s Black Iris Project starring Courtney Celeste Spears of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is available through Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope festival until May 31, 2021

We hear a news report of a judge acquitting a police officer in the shooting death of a Black college student home during Spring Break, before we watch a well-dressed woman walk down her street, walk up the steps of her elegant brownstone, and collapse in grief.

That collapse in grief is a dance choreographed by Jeremy McQueen to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring — the choice of score by its very title offering a bitter comment on how regular the police killing of unarmed Black men. (The specifics are fictional, but the story too familiar.) The dissonance of the music feels an apt accompaniment to the sharp-angled agony embodied by the movement performed by Courtney Celeste Spears. As the dance takes some arresting turns, the dancer’s vulnerability is shocking — unusually so for an official production of Carnegie Hall.

“A Mother’s Rite” is one of the videos presented as part of Carnegie Hall’s Voices of Hope festival, a two-week festival this month that is an intriguing departure for the august concert hall. It features more than 100 events from some 40 cultural and academic institutions across New York City, including a number of works categorized as dance and theater. Although the festival officially ends April 30th, many of the offerings will remain online through the end of May.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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