A free public screening of FirstWorks Artistic Ambassador Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) and flexing dance pioneer Drew Dollaz’ collaborative works Our Country and About Face. The screening included a Creative Conversation with Roumain, Dollaz, and Sam Woolf – the cinematographer for Our Country – about their work, which fosters awareness of and conversations about racial injustice. The conversation was moderated by Kathleen Pletcher, FirstWorks Executive Artistic Director.
About Face is a six-minute narrated video and the first installment in a short film trilogy that puts a different spin on the school-to-prison pipeline, and the role of fathers of black and brown children in the disruption of that paradigm. Based on the evening-length work for stage, The Just and The Blind. Collaborators: Marc Bamuthi Joseph, DBR, Drew Dollaz, Yak Films and Yoram Savion.
Our Country, originally commissioned and filmed by FirstWorks, premiered at FirstWorks Urban Carnevale on December 30, 2020. This collaborative work combines DBR’s reinterpretation of My Country ‘Tis of Thee as the score to Dollaz’ choreography and performance in this work that addresses police brutality.
ABOUT THE PANELISTS
DREW DOLLAZ is a pioneer of flexing, a Brooklyn-based genre of street dance also referred to as bone breaking, which is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movements. A self-taught dancer, Dollaz’ signature work blends flexing with other genres of movement, including ballet, to create a transcendent hybrid of movement artistry.
Dollaz has performed and partnered with a broad range of artists and brands, including Madonna, Rihanna, Skrillex, Red Bull, Sony, Aloft Hotels, and Billboard. His performances on Madonna’s MDNA tour in 2012 marked the first time flexing appeared on the world stage. Next Level Squad, a New York City collective of flexing dancers in which Dollaz performs and choreographs, has garnered more than a million views on YouTube and has been featured on shows including The Breakin’ Convention, and America’s Got Talent.
He choreographed and performs in The Just and The Blind, a collaboration with composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and spoken word artist BAMUTHI. Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the work premiered to a sold out audience at Carnegie in March 2019. The evening length piece has since been presented at the Kennedy Center’s opening festival for The REACH and continues to tour across the US. Dollaz stars in ABOUT FACE, an award-winning short film produced by Sozo & directed by Yoram Savion of YAK Films, and looks forward to the release of his acting debut in a feature length film.
Movement For Human Rights, a component of Dollaz’ newest work #IMPERFECT, was performed to an audience of more than 70,000 at Budapest’s Sziget Festival in 2019. #IMPERFECT is currently in creative development and will premiere in 2021.
Arts education and youth empowerment are core tenets of Dollaz’ work and he currently mentors young dancers and gives master classes around the world, including at the Kennedy Center for participants ranging from ages 5 through 70.
DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN’S acclaimed work as a composer, performer, educator, and activist spans more than two decades, and he has been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. “About as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (NYT), DBR is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations span Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover and Lady Gaga.
Known for his signature violin sounds infused with myriad electronic, urban, and African-American music influences, DBR takes his genre-bending music beyond the proscenium. He is a composer of chamber, orchestral, and operatic works; has won an Emmy for Outstanding Musical Composition for his collaborations with ESPN; featured as keynote performer at technology conferences; and created large scale, site-specific musical events for public spaces. DBR earned his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan and is currently Institute Professor and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University.
An avid arts industry leader, DBR serves on the board of directors of the League of American Orchestras, Association of Performing Arts Presenters and Creative Capital, the advisory committee of the Sphinx Organization, and was co-chair of 2015 and 2016 APAP Conferences.
DBR has most recently created the musical score for The Just and The Blind, a collaboration with spoken word artist and writer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, commissioned by Carnegie Hall; and a new work for Washington State University’s Symphonic Band, Falling Black Into The Sky, based on the work of the artist James Turrell and his “light work” at Roden Crater.
SAM WOOLF is a photographer and cinematographer raised in Arizona and based in New York. His cinematography has been recognized at film festivals internationally, and his photographic works on the intersections of the climate crisis and nationalism in Southeast Asia were published on the front page of Vice News. Sam’s editorial work considers our relationship with land, and how it can shape relationships between each other.
KATHLEEN PLETCHER founded FirstWorks in 2004, transforming the one-night First Night Providence festival into a year-round performing arts and educational organization. As a presenter, she has developed projects with creative pioneers such as Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.