Step Afrika!’s ‘The Migration’ Returns to D.C.

Step Afrika! brings its incredible 2017-2018 season to a close with nine performances of “The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence” in the District at the Hartke Theatre, Catholic University of America in Northeast, June 8-17.

A beat for every brushstroke, Step Afrika! brings to life Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series,” the landmark collection of paintings about one of the largest demographic transformations in U.S. history. Fusing body percussion, stepping, and contemporary dance with live gospel, jazz and blues music, Step Afrika! tells the uniquely American story of African Americans who moved from the rural south to the urban north in the 1900s.

Used as inspiration and backdrop, 20 of the 60 panels by renowned American artist Jacob Lawrence are projected on stage during Step Afrika!’s production of “The Migration.” Lawrence’s bold, colorful artworks literally set the stage for African American stepping, West African dance, South African gumboot and percussive traditions of patting juba, hambone, and ring shouts. All elements seamlessly come together to create a rich narrative of music, history and movement.

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. It now ranks as one of the top 10 African-American dance companies in the U.S. The Company blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African-American fraternities and sororities, African traditional dance and influences from a variety of other dance and art forms. Performances, much more than dance shows, integrate songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation. The Company reaches tens of thousands of Americans each year through a 50-city tour of colleges and theatres and performs globally as the District’s sole Cultural Ambassador.

Step Afrika! is featured prominently at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History & Culture with the world’s first stepping interactive.

About Jacob Lawrence and The Migration Series

Jacob Lawrence (Sept. 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) was celebrated for his work portraying African American life and the African-American experience. Lawrence’s works are in the permanent collections at Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, The Phillips Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Reynolda House Museum of Art, among others. At the age of 22, he received a grant to create 60 panels that comprised of what he initially called “The Migration of the Negro.” Upon its completion, Jacob Lawrence’s new work quickly gained recognition. It was featured in Fortune Magazine and eventually purchased by The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC and the Museum of Modern Art in New York — making history as the first work created by an African American to be purchased by these institutions.

Learn more about The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence by visiting Step Afrika!’s website: Look for our interview with Jakari Sherman, the artistic director of Step Afrika! in next week’s edition.

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