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Redemption dance: Festival uses Bob Marley’s music to highlight homophobia

To the left: Dancers put their hands up as they perform “Facing Home: Love and Redemption,” a dance piece that contrasts Bob Marley’s inspirational music with Jamaica’s homophobic culture.
Tehnan Ketema

Get up, stand up! Stand up for gay rights!

A Caribbean dance festival springing into Dumbo on June 11 will use the music of Bob Marley to call out anti-gay attacks on the musician’s home island. The organizers of “New Traditions Festival 2016: Dance Your Caribbean” say that they chose the piece “Facing Home: Love and Redemption,” to show gay members of the Caribbean community that they are welcome, and to encourage discussion of homophobia throughout the region.

“We invest in everyone Caribbean, and we want and desire all people to come,” said Candace Thompson, the founder of Brooklyn’s Dance Caribbean Collective. “Part of the festival is about using present concepts, our tradition, and issues that face the community, like racial profiling, gay deaths in Jamaica and in New York, and to start conversations. We felt we could start discussion.”

Two Jamaican-Canadian dancers, Christopher Walker and Kevin A. Ormsby, will present “Facing Home” on each day of the two-day festival. The dance uses covers and remixed tracks of Marley’s music to highlight the Jamaican culture that praises Marley’s songs of equality, but which also discriminates against the gay community. Jamaica is considered one of the most anti-gay countries in the world.

The festival, now in its second year, will also showcase work by Caribbean dancers and dancing companies based in New York City.

One Brooklyn dancer said that her piece will also deal with social issues, focusing on the Haitian immigration crisis of the 1980s.

“It’s about the Haitian boat struggle,” said Jessica St. Vil. “I wanted to share that story because it’s something that’s part of the history of Haitian people in the United States — a lot of people don’t know about that story and it’s important to share that.”

St. Vil said that festival is an opportunity for people to get to know the Caribbean dance community and what it represents.

“The goal is to allow artists that are doing work — choreographers — to get their work seen,” said St. Vil.

A discussion with the audience will follow each performance.

“New Traditions 2016: Dance Your Caribbean” at Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center [29 Jay St. in Dumbo, (347) 455–6357, www.dancecaribbeancollective.com]. June 11 at 7:30 pm; June 12 at 6 pm. $18–$50.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Traditional forms: Candace Thompson, founder of Dance Caribbean Collective and organizer of “New Traditions 2016: Dance Your Caribbean!” takes to the dance floor.
Whitney Brown

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