The work that you’ll see tonight, Rambunctious Iteration #3 – The Immigrants, is the third part of a series called Rambunctious: A Festival of Music and Dance. The first iteration premiered in 2014 and used string quartets by American composers. The second work focused on African-American composers. This last work in the series is set to music from American composers who were born in other parts of the world.
In talking to Donald Byrd about tonight’s program, I was struck by how the content is both timely and timeless. The work was choreographed during the 2016 election season as a leading candidate demonized immigrants and sought to ban Muslims from entering the country. Byrd chose composers from Iran, Cuba, Russia, Mexico, and China to provide the music for his choreographic response. At the same time, Byrd describes Iteration #3 as a vehicle “to share how I respond to music.” What could be more fundamental than the relationship between dance and music? You could watch the performance without knowing that the music has this explicitly political origin story. According to Byrd, “the pieces are not political; the politics are in the music.”
This same dynamic of playing with the front and the background is at work with Byrd’s race as a black choreographer in tonight’s work as well. He explains, “I talk about the African aesthetic of my work and how the principles that define the African aesthetic are really present, especially abstractly. Even if you don’t know what those principles are, you can feel the “blackness” there. The very nature of our being black means we are making dance speaking to black issues—even if we don’t do so in a way that seems obvious.”
One mission of Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater is to employ dance as a “civic instrument.” We’re gratified to bring this company from their home in Seattle to our communities in Chicago, and we celebrate the contributions of immigrants to our city and country.