Frankie Lee Peterson III Offers a Praise Dance for the Town

Dance in Oakland might be synonymous with homegrown street styles like turfing, but the city’s creative spirit attracts people from all walks of life, and they, in turn, help shape its artistic culture.

Dancer Frankie Lee Peterson III moved to Oakland in 2014, inspired by the Town’s history of “a more artistic foundation for the African-American community, and all types of people fighting for each other.”

Since laying down his roots in the East Bay, Peterson says he has thrived professionally and personally. He’s taught at New Style Motherlode; performed with the Oakland Ballet and at the Black Choreographers Festival; and launched his personal brand .fLEE dance.

His distinctly poetic performances combine an array of contemporary and traditional influences, including house dance, African dance and liturgical dance, which is a form of praise dance done in church. “Oakland is totally different than any place that I’ve been,” says Peterson. “Love is just a big factor. Through my dance, I totally want to keep energizing this place.”

Spirituality plays a big role in Peterson’s relationship with dance, and his belief in God is the inspiration for his liberatory movements. In the video, he opens up about how dance helped him move through some personal traumas. “I want people to, when they see my dance, to be like, ‘Okay, he says he gave up on himself and now look at him,” he says.

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Watch as Peterson leaps, twirls and pirouettes in front of an Oakland Superheroes Mural,  outside the historic Fox Theater, and by the Remember Them: Champions for Humanity Monument, which pays homage to important figures like Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. -- Text by Nastia Voynovskaya

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