UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 08 Summer 18 Library
Malia Dinko Photography


At its best, live performance immerses the audience with the artists on stage –creating a new community who is transformed by a unique shared experience. Such a performance was presented in the Helms Theatre last February when the UVA Department of Drama and its Dance Program, in collaboration with The Carter G. Woodson Institute, kicked off August in Perspective: Creative Responses to #Charlottesville with a free performance of RUN MARY RUN. August in Perspective, a month-long series of workshops and performances in response to the events of August 11th and 12th, was organized by The Carter G. Woodson Institute and designed to foster community, introspection, and reconciliation through art making. Guest artists, UVA students and faculty, community organizations, and area high schools came together to engage in multiple experiential art events that focused specifically on questions relating to race, place, and history.

Run Mary Run talkback at UVA's Helms Theatre
(Photo: Malia Dinko Photography)

Named one of the Best Concerts of 2012 by Ben Ratliff of the New York Times, RUN MARY RUN was developed by distinguished choreographer Rashida Bumbray in collaboration with the Dance Diaspora Collective and master dancer Adenike Sharpley, Professor at Oberlin College. Bumbray’s choreography draws from traditional African American vernacular and folk dance forms. This particular piece plays on the structure of the Ring Shout – a Black American spiritual dance form developed in African slave communities that uses call and response to connect, empower, and heal participants. In RUN MARY RUN, Bumbray considers the harmonic ideas and tonal vocabulary of the McIntosh County Shouters, master ring shout artists, as a point of departure. Creating an active ritual for the ceremony of the ring shout, the performers bring the audience along with them on a ride through the cosmologies of the Low Country, Geechie Sea Islands, Tennessee Blues, P Funk, and Hip Hop – relating the shout to the larger history of Black music. 

In the context of August in Perspective, this performance used movement and music to bring community members together, to connect with and learn from rich histories of performance from the Black diaspora. The performance was followed by a talk-back panel of artists Bumbray, Sharpley, and Paloma McGregor, as well as students, and faculty. The post-show discussion provided further space to process August 11th and 12th, and a broader investigation on the role of artistic practices and performances like RUN MARY RUN as a pathway to social justice.

RUN MARY RUN was presented by Dancing While Black, a New York-based initiative with national reach that is a product of Angela’s Pulse, Co-founded by Paloma and Patricia McGregor. Now celebrating its fifth anniversary, Dancing While Black works to bring the voices of Black movement artists from the periphery to the center by supporting dialogue, documentation, process, and performance, particularly among Black artists whose practices do not fit neatly into existing artistic boxes. Dancing While Black/Angela's Pulse is supported by the Surdna Foundation and Dance/NYC’s Dance Advancement Fund, made possible by the Ford Foundation.

Run Mary Run performed at UVA's Helms Theatre

The RUN MARY RUN residency was made possible by the support of the Arts & Sciences Collective Response: Moving Forward Fund, UVA’s Department of Drama and its Dance Program, The Carter G. Woodson Institute, Citizen Justice Initiative, Dancing While Black, and the UVA Arts Council.

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