Spectrum Theater dance performance tackles social justice issues
Dance and shedding light on social justice issues were combined by Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater in a performance of “Shot” at the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.
A segment of “Shot,” a dance piece on police brutality, was performed before an audience of roughly 120 people, and included a Q&A led by the Tony award-winning choreographer of the show, Donald Byrd.
“Issues of inequality are issues of the body,” Robert Moore, dancer for Spectrum Dance Theater and member of the production, said. “It’s affecting bodies, it’s affecting people’s livelihoods. Dance has everything to do with these issues.”
The performance included dancer Nia-Amina Minor, exclaiming statements like, “Don’t shoot!” and “He doesn’t have a gun!” These were direct quotes from footage of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in which his wife, Reykia, was addressing the police officers. Byrd stated in the performance’s pamphlet that this footage evoked a strong response from him and inspired the creation of “Shot.”
Moore said he thought the night went well. In a piece like “Shot,” ‘well’ means that they got the message across, he said.
“[Vulnerability] is part of our job,” Moore said. “We’re asked to be vulnerable and we know what type of work we’re going to be doing.”
Dance has the power to reach across barriers people put up, and forces them to deeply listen to the message instead of thinking of the next thing to say, as opposed to a conversation, Byrd said.
The Spectrum Dance company has previously performed a piece called “Impulse,” regarding LGBTQ violence, which Byrd was inspired to create following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida last year. These are the type of societal issues the company knows they are signing up to tackle, Moore said.
“It’s sort of a pop culture way of bringing people’s attention to activism,” junior Erin Chriscaden said. “The theater is a really great way to do that.”
Moore said there is an element of escapism in theater and dance, but that it’s not the only function or purpose of the art form.
“This is something that’s very relevant to my experience and I’m glad I get to use the art form that I love so much, that I’ve trained and worked so hard for, to be in service to talking about those issues [like police brutality].”
The next performance of “Shot” will take place in Tacoma next week. The future schedule is unmapped, but smaller excerpts in studio settings will likely happen with different iterations of the performance, Moore said.
Donald Byrd was a Tony Award nominee for his choreography of “The Color Purple,” and won a Bessie Award for “The Minstrel Show,” which included Moore as part of the company.