'Harriet's Gun' Imagines Black Futures Through Dance

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Percussive dance group Molodi is one of the performers at this year's D.I.R.T. Festival.
Percussive dance group Molodi is one of the performers at this year's D.I.R.T. Festival. (Carl Salvail)

This month, Dance Mission Theater presents its sixth annual Dance in Revolt(ing) Times (D.I.R.T.) Festival, titled Harriet’s Gun, Shapeshifting Towards a Radically Imagined Black Future. Featuring a wide range of multidisciplinary black artists from all over the nation, the festival spotlights eight soloists and eight dance companies from 12 cities around the United States. Part one of the festival aired on March 5, while part two airs Saturday, March 13, emceed by San Francisco’s Rhodessa Jones. The upcoming March 13 event will feature performances by Brooklyn dancer Adia Whitaker, Global TED Fellow Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Oakland’s own Destiny Arts Center, Harlem dancer Nia Love and more.

Falling just days away from the 30-year anniversary of the brutal beating of Rodney King that sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police officers, the festival aims to “push past the pain-porn model of centering Black suffering as entertainment for mass consumption,” and instead focus on “a commitment to change.”

This year’s festival was named for the gun carried by historical figure Harriet Tubman on her missions to free slaves. “Harriet’s gun was insurance, protection, a wand, an anchor, a shield, an antenna, a sage bundle, a way out, a motivator, and a guard rail,” Adia Whitaker explained in a statement. “In the same way, [the event] offers a collective space for artists to define, speak and move power into the Black future and out into the world.”

The annual D.I.R.T. festival began in 2015 with the goal of uplifting artists that directly address local, national, and global sociopolitical issues through their work. “The curation of the 2021 D.I.R.T. Festival is itself an invocation, a prayer, and a calling in, that is not taken lightly. It is an opportunity for all of us to construct a portal for spirit to enter,” said Sarah Crowell, director of Destiny Arts Center and D.I.R.T. co-curator.

Program A of 'Harriet's Gun' aired on March 5, and is still available to view online. Program B airs on Saturday, March 13, at 5pm PST. Details here.

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