The Black Iris Project

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The Black Iris Project, created by award-winning choreographer and former dancer Jeremy McQueen, presents new works about black lives and history. I wasn’t aware of the project until Jeremy reached out to me earlier this year, via Instagram–someone apparently told him about me and needless to say, I was thrilled to hear from him. His introductory email included a New York Times article about the project, and he asked if I’d be available for the upcoming summer performances. I was immediately intrigued and eager to make it work out, without even knowing all the details!

Jeremy then confirmed that I was in and flew out to San Francisco for an intense two days of rehearsals, where he taught me the lead role in Black Iris, an original ballet of his about black womanhood (inspired by the Georgia O’Keeffe painting Black Iris III). Jeremy told me how, as a young dancer, he attended SF Ballet School‘s summer session program and it was nice to share a nostalgic moment with him as he entered our building again for the first time in years. At any rate, it was great to meet him in person–he struck me as humble and appreciative, and also confident in who he was: a good combination.

The Black Iris Project dancers.

Me (in the middle) with the Black Iris Project dancers.

My first performance of Black Iris was on June 29 in Manhattan’s Central Park as part of SummerStage, an annual free festival, presented by the City Park’s Foundation. Before the performance, there was a panel discussion with four former dancers who talked about what it’s like being a dancer of color. After the performance, there was a screening of dancer Misty Copeland’s 2015 documentary A Ballerina’s Tale, which I think is an inspirational story for many people.

Me with Misty Copeland.

Me with Misty Copeland.

Overall, it was a really incredible night and a wonderful line-up–and I was proud to be a part of it. The hard part for me was being the lead ballerina, which I had never been, and I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone. When my self-esteem started to ebb, I just had to keep reminding myself that this was for a cause that was bigger than just me. During the rehearsal process, all of the other dancers were very positive and complimentary, as was Jeremy. He was very encouraging and I was so thankful to have been a part of such a wonderful team effort!

I’ll perform the same role when Black Iris has its debut season on July 27 and 28 at New York Live Arts. For more information, click here.

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