Old Fight, New Dance: Black Lives Matter Pole Dance
Anyone who has watched the news in the past 12 months has seen the upsurge in coverage on the brutal killings of African-Americans. From Trayvon Martin, to Eric Garner, to the mass shooting in a Charleston church, to Ferguson it’s clear that America still has a long way to go its the fight for equal rights. This senseless slaughter weighed heavy on one pole dancer’s mind and she decided to do something about it. Mia Shante is a certified personal trainer, national figure competitor and competitive pole dancer. Her video “Old Fight, New Dance: Black Lives Matter” features dancers Kelly Yvonne, Sasja “Fierce” Lee, Divine Em, Jame Elis, Tehera Nesfield, Onyx Black and Candace Cane in a powerful, fearless and emotional dance choreographed by Phoenix Kazree. We interviewed Mia Shante to find out a bit more about her inspiration for this triumphant dance.
BK: How long have you been pole dancing? How did you get into pole?
MS: I’ve been pole dancing 2.5 years. I was introduced to it at a Malibu party. The owner of a pole studio decided to set up her stage pole and teach the ladies at the party some tricks. Well I was one of those ladies. She taught me the Firefly spin and I got it on my first try! Not only did I get it, but I felt graceful. An adjective I would never used in conjunction with my tomboy self, so needless to say I was hooked.
BK: You mention in the press release that you envisioned this piece for black women in particular and go on to say that they have not been highlighted in the Black Lives Matter movement. Can you say a bit more about how you see the role of black women in this movement and how you hope this message of this video supports that role?
MS: The women in this movement are the rocks of the movement. We are the ones standing strong and uplifting our community. We are the matriarchs. That has always been our role; to keep the family together after our husbands, sons, brothers and fathers are beaten and/or victimized.
So this piece is saying we hear you, we are you and WE, this community of dancers, uplift YOU, the matriarchs, wives, the sisters holding it together for their families.
BK: I love that you talk about dancing through the trauma and the grief from the recent upsurge in killings of black men. How you do you see dance helping with those feelings?
MS: Dance, like any artform, is an outlet and all emotions, higher or lower on the emotional scale, are better out than in. It allows us to dance side by side with our white counterparts and not put our anger and frustration on them. More specifically, this video allows for dialogue to take place so that we may continue moving forward.
BK: Did you always envision this as a group piece? How did you choose the cast?
MS: No. I saw it for myself first and was advised to wait until I build a name for myself before doing political pieces. Then the Eric Garner footage was released and I heard the frustrations of Sasja Lee. I remembered why I joined my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc…because the collective voice can be more powerful than one. So I called Sasja and told her my idea. She said “Yes! Let’s do it!”. I sent a message to most of the black pole dancers in LA, saw who was interested and available and took it from there.
BK: The choreography in this piece is very strong and powerful with a lot of storytelling. Can you say a bit about how Phoenix Kazree came up with the choreo? Was it a collaborative effort? Did you always envision pole as part of the piece?
MS: Yes, pole had to be apart of it. We are pole dancers. I gave Phoenix the storyline, the message I wanted to convey, and she created! She is exceptional at taking one’s words and translating them into movement. I will say this, learning it, rehearsing it, dancing it and still watching it, the movement gets me every single time, especially based on the stories she gave us to ignite our movement and expression. It is not easy reenacting traumatic events and while none of us has experienced any physical brutality first hand, it is in our DNA, our roots.
BK: What do you hope viewers will take away from this video?
MS: Mainly, I want people to feel something. I want to move them. Whether it moves them to tears or action I just want to move them. I want people to feel empowered. I want people to know they are not alone. I want them to feel confident in pursuing whatever idea they may have for this cause or any other cause.
Powerful words for a powerful dance. See the video below.
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