Stages of a Mother’s Grief Take Center Stage at Delaware Art Museum
It is a story neighbors in Wilmington see all too often in the news: a mother thrust into the spotlight while she grieves the violent end to her child’s life.
Yet it is not often we see such a story set to the music of Igor Stravinsky and performed as a ballet, such as what is taking place Thursday, January 23 at 6pm in the Delaware Art Museum’s Fusco Grand Hall.
“A Mother’s Rite” is a new ballet about how one mother copes with the loss of her child in a racially-motivated incident involving the police. It is a contemporary work choreographed by New York’s Jeremy McQueen, founder, artistic director and choreographer for The Black Iris Project. This ballet collaborative and education vehicle creates new, relevant classical and contemporary ballet works that celebrate diversity and Black history.
The 38-minute solo piece performed by Fana Tesfagiorgis (currently touring with My Fair Lady) and set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (one of the most recorded works in the classical repertoire) will be bookended by additional programming. Ensembles of local dancers from both Pieces of a Dream and the Christina Cultural Arts Center will kick off the event. A Q&A will round out the evening, featuring Black Iris’ McQueen along with Chandra Pitts, President and CEO of the One Village Alliance, the presenter of Raising Kings Week, a MLK month initiative which made this ballet a part of its January 20 through 25 programming.
Ashley S.K. Davis, Executive and Artistic Director at Pieces of a Dream, describes the impact she hopes this ballet will have on the local community: “While there is no shortage of ballet companies in the region, there is a poignant lack of African-American bodies on these illustrious stages. For aspiring young Black ballerinas and ballerinos to see themselves represented in this genre can be inspiring and life-changing. It is also important for the community at large, dancers and non-dancers alike, to see this classical dance form centered on Black bodies and focused on Black stories.”
The Delaware Art Museum has put a distinct focus on works germane to civil rights and social justice history over the past year, continuing into 2020. Therefore it is no surprise that its Performance Series for 2020—taking place monthly in January through March, and twice in April—features three artistic expressions of the African-American experience. February brings music by Joel Ross Good Vibes and April brings dance through Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk.
Recent exhibitions born from this strategic direction have included a collection of works from Edward Loper, Sr. and Edward Loper, Jr., Caribbean contemporary art, African American Art: Migration and Modernism, Danny Lyon: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Drawings by Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman, and the Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot.
McQueen was inspired to create “A Mother’s Rite” during an emotional and dramatic performance by singer Solange Knowles. “As I was watching this almost ritualistic shedding of pain, I started to think about what I and Black Americans have the right to be mad about and I started to think more and more about the senseless killings of Black men and women across our country. ‘A Mother’s Rite’ is choreographed to illustrate a side of the story that is often kept very private, one that the public is not often exposed to.”
The community will further benefit from these visiting artists. Pieces of a Dream will offer a free ballet master class for dancers on Wednesday, January 22 at 6pm at their dance studio. Interested participants should pre-register at delart.org.
Plan a day at the museum and catch Posing Beauty in African American Culture (closing on January 26), curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., which explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, music and the Internet. Or take in Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters, directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections to present a contemporary look at gender and identity through the lens of historic narrative art.
It is advisable to purchase ballet tickets in advance, as this is a one-night-only performance, although any unsold tickets will be available for purchase at the door. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for non-members and $10 for students.