Dance has always been a powerful means of communication, and it is an important expression of the pain and hope of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Native Washingtonians Airro, L, Loso and Xanyy have been at Black Lives Matter Plaza from the beginning of the protests. Immediately following the murder of George Floyd when the crowds were gathering day and night and tensions and anger were very high, the group decided that they wanted to be a voice too, but a voice through dance, a voice that would give people pause for a moment or longer, a voice to bring a bit of a balance to the anger.
The dancers draw on a wide variety of dance styles to create an impromptu freestyle dance that is fascinating to watch. Arms get twisted and contorted into unimaginable shapes and positions while the feet and legs are still dancing to the rhythm of the music. It’s an incredibly expressive performance.
The faces of the dancers may be familiar to many in Washington – some have performed in music videos, Loso has danced at DAR Constitution Hall, they have performed on the Metro, and appeared on local news.
As Black Lives Matter Plaza has become a new nucleus of D.C., the dancers are surrounded every day by protesters, a myriad of speakers, religious groups, t-shirt vendors ….there is a constant whirlwind of activity. Thoughts, ideas and opinions are hashed out and exchanged and even argued about as a new vision of what America could be evolves.
Art and artists have played an enormous role in the creation and the existence of the Plaza. From the now iconic Black Lives Matter mural painted on the surface of 16th street to the art work covering several blocks of buildings commemorating the victims of police violence, to the musicians, to the protest sign painters, the list goes on and on.
Next time you find yourself at Black Lives Matter Plaza, take a moment and listen for the music, and you’ll find the “voices” of dance and change. Take some time to appreciate their incredible talent and generosity.
If you want to find out more about dance in Black Lives Matter protests, there’s a Google doc with lists of dance protests in cities across the U.S., and references about how dance is used in social movements.
All images copyright to Rob Klug