Lil Buck and Jon Boogz Made a Moving Video About Mass Incarceration

How do you make a dance film about one of the most devastating social issues of our time? In the latest collaboration from Lil Buck and Jon Boogz, the answer is to merge visceral movement storytelling with cold, hard facts.

"Am I a Man?" follows Lil Buck and Boogz as they dance through an experience that one out of every three black men in America between the ages of 18 and 30 faces: arrest, conviction and imprisonment. But what takes this video to the next level is the interspersed interview from lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson, whose commentary on the ways that our justice system unfairly treats people of color brings a sense of urgency to the narrative.

Dance truly carries the narrative arc of the film, from the dancers' smooth, walking-on-air quality pre-arrest to the way their desperation seems to grow in intensity the longer they're imprisoned. When they're released, their movement mirrors phrases from the beginning of the film, but this time more subdued, less carefree. The dancers' embodiment of the experience of being incarcerated is a powerful reminder of dance's ability to address even the most complex social issues.

Just last winter Kyle Abraham tackled the same issue onstage in his Untitled America for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, focusing specifically how the incarceration of black men affects their families.

"Am I a Man?" was produced by Movement Art Is, a organization founded by Lil Buck and Jon Boogz to harness the power of dance for social change.

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Courtesy Ava Noble

Go Behind the Scenes of USC Kaufman’s Virtual Dance Festival

Now more than ever, the students of USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance are embodying their program's vision: "The New Movement."

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, the dance world continues to be faced with unprecedented challenges, but USC Kaufman's faculty and BFA students haven't shied away from them. While many schools have had to cancel events or scale them back to live-from-my-living-room streams, USC Kaufman has embraced the situation and taken on impressive endeavors, like expanding its online recruitment efforts.

November 1 to 13, USC Kaufman will present A/Part To/Gather, a virtual festival featuring world premieres from esteemed faculty and guest choreographers, student dance films and much more. All semester long, they've rehearsed via Zoom from their respective student apartments or hometowns. And they haven't solely been dancing. "You have a rehearsal process, and then a filming process, and a production process of putting it together," says assistant professor of practice Jennifer McQuiston Lott of the prerecorded and professionally edited festival.