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Black Iris Project brings ballet to minority communities

The performance is Feb. 8 at Balboa Theatre
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Posted at 6:19 AM, Feb 08, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - This week, when The Black Iris Project performs at the Balboa Theatre, Artistic Director/Choreographer Jeremy McQueen hopes it opens eyes and minds.

"Art is meant to reflect the times," the San Diego native says. That's why he calls his art "unapologetically Bblack," and focuses on letting Black artists tell uniquely Black stories.

"It can't just be about putting a Black dancer into a Swan costume and calling it diversity."

The performance Wednesday night will feature two different shows. One, " A Mother's Rite," tells the story of a woman whose child is killed by police. The other, "Wild," focuses on youth incarceration among people of color.

"We're seeking to be the change that we wish to see in the world," McQueen says, " By creating stories that resonate deeply, first and foremost, with Black communities and taking it to those communities so they can see that."

McQueen grew up in San Diego and loved seeing all kinds of theater. But he noticed a lack of diversity on stage.

"Vary rarely did I see performers executing stories that represented my history, my background, my culture," he says. He's trying to change that for the next generation.

"In order for the arts to really thrive and look like the diversity that exists in the world, we really have to evaluate what's going on currently in the arts landscape and find ways to push boundaries."

That's what drew Fana Tesfagiorgis to The Black Iris Project.

"Jeremy's not making this just for fun," she says of the pieces. "He's trying to get a message across to the audience, very clearly and directly, so people are moved to the point of action."

Tesfagiorgis will play the Mother in this week's show. It's a role she does not take lightly, especially in the wake of high profile police brutality like the deaths of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols.

"It's very heavy to put on, and I have the luxury of taking the character off, and many mothers have to live this for the rest of their lives," she says. "So you'll see her angry, you'll see her bargaining, you'll see her pleading...

"It gives you a different sense of purpose."

McQueen hopes the audience gets a sense of purpose as well. And he wants this work to inspire the next generation of artists in a medium that has traditionally been dominated by white performers and creators.

"I hope that people will come and see these works and their eyes will be opened and that they might, perhaps, be charged to find new pathways, to support black lives, to advocate for change, and to be a catalyst for growth in our country," McQueen says.

The show is at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Balboa Theater. Tickets are still available at this link.