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Collaboration. Inclusiveness. Harmony. These are some of the messages of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963.

To commemorate the speech’s 50th anniversary and help the next generation understand its continued importance, filmmaker Richard Karz has produced The Dream@50 events, including Dance the Dream performances, in more than 30 cities worldwide over the past 14 months. These events will form the basis of a documentary to air on PBS in February 2015. Seattle was one of the last sites to participate. The next stop is Ferguson, MO, at the end of next week.

Last Saturday, November 1, Karz addressed a large crowd of dancers and onlookers at Westlake Park, just prior to filming Seattle’s Dance the Dream. Explaining his motivation for the project, he said, “Fifty years later, the need for a new paradigm is more important than ever. [We need] a more inclusive world. A world that is less violent…It’s all about the next generation picking up the mantle. ” In the wake of the Marysville school shooting, that remark was especially poignant.

Karz enlisted the help of Olivier Wevers, artistic director of Whim W’him, to choreograph dances for several of the groups participating, as well as a finale for all, in mid-October. According to Wevers, he and Karz worked together to select a mix of contemporary songs, including one by Macklemore. Wevers choreographed to each group’s strength – lyrical for Westlake Dance Center, contemporary for Velocity/STG’s Seattle Youth Dance Collective, and leaps and lifts for dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division. (Velocity was a sponsor of the event.) With just two weeks to create the work and a couple hours rehearsal with each group, it wasn’t a time for experimentation.

Other groups represented at Dance the Dream were Whim W’him – Wever’s professional dance company, Ballard High School, Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences, Spectrum Dance Theater’s School and Color Lines. Dancers, as young as eight, came from D&G hip-hop studio in Rainier Valley.

Over the course of three hours, the dancers, led by Wevers, did seven takes. They received on the spot feedback, and their collective dance got progressively better.

It was indeed a special moment for Seattle dancers who had the chance to participate, parents who came to witness, and those who happened to be passing by. One dad said, “This is awfully fun.” (He also took the video of the finale that accompanies this article.) According to another parent, a passerby who stayed for hour said, “These are not just the faces of Seattle. They’re the faces of the whole nation.” However, they were in fact from here.

And, as Karz had hoped, music and dance brought Seattleites together for an afternoon, and this was captured for PBS viewers to see next year. Just as importantly, Seattle’s youth shared a moment in which cooperation prevailed.
 
 

DanceTheDreamFinale from VelocityDanceCenter on Vimeo.

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