Dancers move with grace upon the seemingly bare stage at Thalian Hall, ebbing and flowing with one another in perfect fluidity. Suddenly, the dancers are motionless on the ground, as sounds of ambulance sirens and 9-1-1 calls rise from the stillness. Footage of reporters on the scene of a shooting flash across the screen from the back of the stage. A steady increasing heartbeat can be heard as an EKG pulse streaks from one end of the room to the other. A single dancer rises with her arms crossed; the chaotic footage fades away, only to be replaced by a sea of 49 faces. They are the people who were killed when a security guard opened fire upon the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016.
Local choreographer Kevin Lee-Y Green brought to life “Pulse,” as part of the program Dance-a-Lorus—the opening night of Cucalorus Film Festival, which pairs film and live dancers. The Orlando shooting greatly disturbed Green, and moved him to arrange the show with musician Gregory Devon Brown. Brown’s original compositions evoke sensations of struggle and mourning that coursed through the LGBTQIA community during and in the aftermath of the fatal shooting.
“While the shooting got national attention, I felt it was not as commonly discussed here as it should have been,” Green recalls.
With the celebration of June as LGBTQIA Pride Month, tragedies such as the Pulse shooting and what happened to Matthew Shepard (immortalized on stage via “The Laramie Project” at Cape Fear Playhouse earlier in the month) are evoked in memory. One of Green’s goals is to commemorate those affected by the Pulse shooting. Perhaps by memorializing the events theatrically, they also can encourage social change.
“As humans, we’re afraid to face social injustices head on,” he explains. “But what a better way to express myself than through the art form I love?”
Green’s passion for dance was instilled at an early age. “I used to imitate what I’d see on TV,” he recalls. The rest came naturally. He studied dance at UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem before settling in Wilmington, where he continued to study under Judy Greenhut—a six-time nominee for StarNews’ Wilmington Theater Awards. Green has since founded his own troupe, the Techmoja Dance and Theater Company, and continues to stage original performances in ILM.
Yet, Wilmington is not the only place to host his work. “Pulse” saw its off-Broadway debut on March 29 at Dixon Place in Manhattan, as part of the Eight-In-Show Festival. After the performance, Green was asked to return to New York City with a larger scale version of the show, which he is currently organizing.
“I’ve started the phrasing and composition,” he notes. “I’m also talking to other filmmakers and composers. I’m still ironing out details.”
As it stands now, the show will open in November somewhere in Manhattan.
Green found his voice in using dance to discuss social injustice by writing about past events that seem to have lasting impact on currents events and social climate. “I want to examine the awful things that happen,” he clarifies. “Hopefully, it will help people on opposing sides of an issue to see things from a different view.”
Prior to “Pulse,” Green staged “Hashtag” at Dance-a-lorus in 2015. The show dealt with police brutality that increased in 2014, with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. A similar work in his oeuvre, “The Love That Forgives,” examines the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963, which resulted in the death of four young girls.
Another politically charged work entitled “…Two Twin Brothers…” captured the paranoia surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The title is taken from a quote by Nostradamus, which was considered prophetic to some in the wake of the attacks. It was the first show where Green’s dancers interacted with projected videos of news reels and footage of the disaster. Since, sit’s become a recurring motif in his performances.
Green hasn’t abandoned the city that gave him his start. Once he’s finished in New York, he plans to return to the Wilmington stage with bigger, better offerings.
“I would really like to do it again in Wilmington,” he says. “I’m in the process of setting up a full concert of all my pieces, including ‘Pulse.’”
While the subject matter of his work may seem dark, Green’s ambition is not to dwell on hatred but to help move beyond it. It shouldn’t matter where folks come from or what life they live. Therefore, while there’s no avoiding the tragic aspect of “Pulse’s” subject matter, Green asserts its theme, clearly:
“Love is love. If everyone can’t see that and can’t look past our differences, life becomes unbearable. And that’s not fair to any of us.”
Green’s dance company can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Techmoja-Dance-and-Theater-Co-213059432048188.