In 2012 when my mother was battling cancer, I took a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I first fell in love with Georgia O'Keeffe's painting, Black Iris III. Sparked with inspiration from the painting, my mom's struggles and the strength of other black women who helped raise me, I started creating my first en pointe ballet. Despite trials and tribulation, "Black Iris" came to life at Joffrey Ballet in March 2013 and birthed new ideas about how we could take greater steps as a community to diversify the dialogue within classical ballet.  Then a year ago a brand new classical score about Nelson Mandela's life (written by a Black composer) fell in my lap and I knew what I needed to do—create classical ballets that are rooted in black culture, with black artistic visionaries, performed by diverse dancers, AND take these ballets into minority communities, enabling the artists to give back and inspire.

The Black Iris Project is all parts people, places and experiences, and follows a trajectory alongside a lifespan of joy, education, family, trials and disappointments. We invite you to join our journey.

Jeremy McQueen



We gather to shift focus
We dance to create anew
New forms, new faces
Bodies not new, but unique
A re/thinking forward
We build on dreams
Weaving Black creative expression
Teaching Black creative tradition
Inspiring direction
Toward authentic depiction
From past we are birthed
Into present we move
This collaboration we offer
Our work, our art

Original poetry by Ryan Sinclaire Davis