These Social Activists Use Dance To Combat Racism

These Social Activists Use Dance To Combat Racism

FLEXN Evolution is a timely recreation of the dance that premiered in 2015.
June 27, 2017, 7:24pm

One of the central techniques used by dancers in FLEXN Evolution, an improvised performance addressing racial equality and social justice, is called "bone breaking," imagined as the process of being physically or emotionally broken each day and having to rebuild oneself. It is inspired by Brooklyn street dance, and redefined by social activist dancers. Since the first FLEXN performance in 2015, "bone breaking" has become more important than ever, as have the other central moves that comprise the performance: "gliding," the need to escape from something; "getting low," the ability to move below the radar; "grooving," inspired by Jamaican dancehall moves; and "connecting," the process of communicating under any circumstances.

FLEXN Evolution. Photo by Clementine Crochet

FLEXN Evolution is performed by members of the D.R.E.A.M. Ring. Preceding every performance is a conversation in collaboration with Common Justice, an organization dedicated to racial equality and crime survivors, as well as an impressive panel of scholars and community leaders. The performance itself is co-directed by Peter Sellars and Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray.

Also accompanying the performance is a photography installation of portraits of the dancers, called Madd Pain, by artist Carol Dragon. "The photos represent what today in America feels like—broken, guns blazing, being choked up, shame," Gray tells Creators. "When walking through the photo installation, you feel this intensity that prepares you for the show."

Slicc (Derick Murreld) in FLEXN Evolution at Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Stephanie Berger

Recent political events are essential to FLEXN Evolution. "We touch on many pressing issues today, like immigration with the wall at the border and the Muslim ban," says Gray. FLEXN Evolution is now on tour in Europe. While the local issues might vary, Gray says that the dance holds the same transformative power across continents. "There's no difference in audiences, because we ultimately go through the same struggles at some point in our lives, from Brooklyn to Holland."

(From left to right) Tyme (Glendon Charles) and Regg Roc (Reggie Gray) in FLEXN Evolution at Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Stephanie Berger

Karnage (Quamaine Daniels) in FLEXN Evolution at Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Stephanie Berger