On the last day of Black History Month, the NCCU Dance Group revived its Black History Month program at the N.C. Central University Alfonso Elder Student Union after not performing the event for more than seven years.
Before, the group wasn’t able to perform the program due to a limited number of dancers in the organization. This semester, NCCU Dance Group has 28 new members.
The new members were also the first ones to ask about reviving the dance group’s Black History Month program.
“On the very first day, they came in and said they really wanted to do something to give back to our culture,” said NCCU Dance Group vice president Mychal Keels. “They jumped to the challenge. They were dedicated to coming to practice every day and getting the moves down precisely.”
Throughout the performances, the audience witnessed stories that portray different parts of black history, including slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and current issues related to African Americans.
The group educated the audience with historic facts about black culture and had theatrical, spoken word performances inspired by different moments in history in between each dance piece.
The first piece was choreography to “Be Like Him” by Kirk Franklin. The dancers, in colorful skirts and scarves, brought traditional African dance styles to the stage as they stomped, clapped, sang, and raised their hands. According to Keels, this choreography focused on “being above all of the issues that bring us down” and “being yourself.”
The next piece was “Thina Simnqobile” by Soweto Gospel Choir.
With a more upbeat melody, the dancers “stomped out the devil,” still keeping the first piece’s theme of promoting positivity.
Soon after, the NCCU Dance Group changed the student union’s atmosphere from carefree to dark, heavy emotions. The NCCU Dance Group performed to “Sweet in the Mornin’” by Bobby McFerrin, with its choreography created by Keels.
Keels said the dancers’ movements in “Sweet in the Mornin,’” told the story of oppression and slavery. He wanted to pay homage to the slaves who have or have tried to escape from slavery.
As the somber tunes played, the dancers’ movements highlighted the emotions of pain and agony. The dancers were pulling on each other, running, and staggering across the stage. In the middle of the choreography, the group stopped moving and screamed.
“It was very hard to get the dancers to understand [the experience of slavery],” he said. “Some of the movements is very hard to get unless you’ve been in that situation.”
The last two pieces, featuring “Blood on the Leaves” by Kanye West and “Rise Up” by Andra Day, were inspired by the Black Power Movement and creating unity among all people.
In the end, the audience was left impressed by dance group’s program. The dancers were met with loud cheers and a standing ovation from the audience.
“It was really moving. I almost cried twice. There was a lot of themes in there that stuck strongly with me,” said psychology freshman Samone Short.
Another student, art freshman Ariyanna Chillis, said the performances were “beautiful” and “breathtaking.” She added that the power and the messages the NCCU Dance Group expressed in its performances were moving.
“If they were trying to get an idea across to you, it came across strong and you really felt it,” Chillis said.