Choreographer Jeremy McQueen unveils The Black Iris Project: A ballet collective where Black lives become works of art
Black Professional Ballet Dancers Collaborate with Composers and Creative Artists to Inspire and Empower Black Lives
NEW YORK, February 22, 2016 — Choreographer Jeremy McQueen is pleased to announce the launch of The Black Iris Project, a premier ballet collaborative that champions new black-centric works and arts education. The new project will focus on giving a voice to black artists—highlighting the accomplishments of black dancers, musicians, and other creative artists through educational outreach and presentations of original dance works inspired by black heritage. In 2016, The Black Iris Project will present three original ballets rooted in black history, Madiba and Brown Baby (world premieres), and a restaging of Black Iris, originally created as part of McQueen’s 2013 Joffrey Ballet Choreographers of Color Award.
At the launch of the project, February 2016, the diverse collaborative is made up of 20 professional ballet dancers, working in the field as freelancers and professional ballet companies such as Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey. Additionally, seven creative collaborators are working with The Black Iris Project in this inaugural year including costume designers Montana Levi Blanco (Lincoln Center Theater’s War) and Jermaine Terry (Alvin Ailey), co-choreographer of Brown Baby Lauren Cox (Humans
Collective), composers Aaron Diehl (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and Carman Moore (Carnegie Hall), and lighting designer Alan C. Edwards (Dallas Theater’s The Mountaintop).
“As a black ballet-based dancer and choreographer, I’ve experienced first hand the lack of diversity in the field,” remarks Jeremy McQueen, The Black Iris Project founder and artistic director. “Artistically, highlighting black artists in notoriously white roles doesn’t change the diversity conversation, as there are minimal classical ballet roles depicting the reality and struggle of the black experience. I decided it was time to create the environment I wish existed—to allow black artists to really explore and create new relevant ballets that reflect a 21st-century black voice.”
In it’s inaugural year, The Black Iris Project has been awarded funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New Music USA and CUNY Dance Initiative. A complete line-up of performances for The Black Iris Project will commence with a 10-day residency at Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Pocantico Center in May and culminate with the collaborative’s first self-produced presentation at New York Live Arts in July.