A Dance the Dream event in Houston. Photo by Russell Hancock, Courtesy Dance the Dream.
While addressing thousands of Americans at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. went off script and improvised a passage of the speech that became momentous in civil rights activism: “I Have a Dream.” To celebrate its 50th anniversary, filmmaker Richard Karz has produced The Dream@50, a yearlong international festival of art contests and musical performances by artists like Usher. It also features Dance the Dream flash mobs, led by choreographers such as Jenna Lee, of English National Ballet, and Mourad Merzouki, of Compagnie Käfig. The festival, which has taken place in more than 30 cities, from Beirut to Boston, culminates in Los Angeles and Seattle this month. Karz says the flash mob is central to his mission. “We are doing these events in public settings, surrounded by daily life, to illustrate that this is about breaking down racial divisions,” he says. “But it’s also about breaking down boundaries between art and dance and real life.”
L.A. Dance Project member Julia Eichten will lead L.A.’s flash mob, danced to Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” and an arrangement of H.B. Barnum’s “Heaven Help Us All.” It will be performed by over 100 local dance professionals and students, and since Eichten pre-released a video of the dance through YouTube and social media, she says it is expected to gather an audience of 5,000 to 10,000 people “who will get to dance right alongside the professionals and students.” Eichten hopes the choreography will speak to the city’s cultural diversity. “L.A. has such a wide spectrum of nationalities, so we really want to celebrate that through dance and music,” she says. “Togetherness is what Dr. King was an advocate for, despite different views or even violence. I would like to think that through this project we can help create a little harmony for us all to share in.”
Amy O’Neal is choreographing Seattle’s flash mob. For remaining celebration dates, see thedreamat50.com.