Graphic Design by Graph Atik/John Boyce

Graphic Design by Graph Atik/John Boyce

 Elijah Lancaster (Student, The Ailey School)

Elijah Lancaster (Student, The Ailey School)

Honoring the legacy of Nelson Mandela in a hundred day countdown toward the 100th anniversary of his birth (Juy 18, 2018), The Black Iris Project presents, “100 FISTS,” a photo series documenting 100 Black dancers around New York City of varying ages, techniques, and stages of their careers.

This work, a collaboration between choreographer Jeremy McQueen and photographer Melika Dez, pays homage to the courageous strength and achievements of MADIBA, a freedom fighter and trailblazer in Black political organizing.


To join the movement and view the series, visit and follow any of our social media platforms!

Instagram (@blackirisproject), Twitter (@blkirisproject) or on Facebook at


Jeremy McQueen (Artistic Director & Choreographer of The Black Iris Project), is an award-winning emerging choreographer, dedicated to story-telling rooted in experience and social engagement. His work aims to create spaces of comfort, solace, and connection through reflection—a sharing of observations of what is going on around him. 

Born and raised in San Diego, California, McQueen is a graduate of The Ailey School/Fordham University, B.F.A. in dance program. At the age of eight McQueen saw a production of The Phantom of the Opera and was immediately drawn to the arts. That same year he began studying music and theater. At the age of 11 he started his training in dance at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. McQueen has also trained as a scholarship recipient in the schools of American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. 

McQueen was a 2013 recipient of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago’s Choreographers of Color Award and two-time finalist of the Capezio Award for Choreographic Excellence. His work has appeared at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, SummerStage in Central Park, Jacob’s Pillow Dance’s Inside/Out series, Dancers Responding to AIDS’ Fire Island Dance Festival, and more. As a performer, McQueen appeared in the Broadway national tours of Wickedand The Color Purple in addition to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and Metropolitan Opera’s productions of Die FledermausAidaLes Contes d’Hoffmann, and Don Giovanni

McQueen cites two influential instructors as a source for his work and creative energy, Donald Robinson and Kazuko Hirabayashi. From Mr. Robinson, McQueen learned his guiding principle of discipline, doing what you know you’re supposed to do even when no one is there to make sure you do it. At a time when McQueen was in a struggle trying to make his way as a dancer, Ms. Hirabayashi told him to choreograph about it. It is in the craft of story- telling and making a way for yourself through discipline and focus that McQueen was led to start The Black Iris Project, a creation of space for other like-minded artists to reflect their experiences.

Melika Dez (Photographer) is a young photographer based in Montreal, Canada. She specializes in movement photography, specifically in ballet and circus. Gymnast and professional dancer of training, she pursued her studies in photography at Cégep du Vieux Montreal and discovered her true passion. For several years, she had devoted herself to fashion photography and portraiture, working with major brands such as ELLE Québec, H & M Canada and several American urban dance companies. It is only in 2016 that she decided to dedicates herself entirely to dance photography. Her work leads her to travel around the world. Her body of work is often photographed in the heart of the largest cities in the world, among others, New York, Rome and Paris. Behind the lens, she captures the movements of internationally renowned dancers working for prestigious companies such as Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, National Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Cirque du Soleil.