In the Sunday Chronicle, I talk to the founders of the new Black Choreographers Festival, which models itself on the Black Choreographers Moving Towards the 21st Century fest that died out about a decade ago:
?The year 1995 was a landmark for the Black Choreographers Moving Toward the 21st Century Festival, or BCM, as insiders know it. That year, the showcase — which sparked a national dialogue in the African American dance world with its start in 1989 — featured all Bay Area artists. A 27-year-old virtuoso named Robert Henry Johnson held the house in rapture, fluttering between ballet, hip-hop and jazz moves with the delicacy of a butterfly and the brashness of a boxer. Another still-young talent, Robert Moses, danced a solo wearing a collar and a face full of rage, provoking tears and exclamations.
Three women in particular were watching those performances with hope and excitement. Laura Elaine Ellis made her choreographic debut in that festival. Kendra Kimbrough Barnes and Shereel Washington were still students at San Francisco State. “It was life-changing for me,” Ellis says one recent morning over coffee, her large eyes widening. “The synergy was just amazing.”
Kimbrough Barnes nods her head full of braids toward the tall, stately Washington. “It was so thrilling for us to have a place to look forward to going when we finished with college. It was inspiring.”
But the next year, the festival was gone.”