Monday, February 16, 2015

'Black Swan' Premieres at the Ailey Theater

Photo courtesy Dance Iquail
A ballet for the 22nd century. 

Tchaikovsky aside, the musical stylings and interviews of Nina Simone are what set the stage for this dance-based creation revolving around the world of the black ballerina and present-day woman of color.

Dance Iquail, founded by Iquail Shaheed, premiered his production of Black Swan at the Ailey Citigroup Theater this past Saturday, Feb. 14.

The 75-minute show transported the audience through scenes of self-discovery and contemplation, addressing the topics of juxtaposed identities and confined ways of thinking through performance. Whether it was Nina Simone’s words or the sounds of her voice, power emanated with each dance and concluded with a standing ovation by the audience.

“From watching it in my head three years ago - now it’s here and it’s sold out,” said Shaheed about the production coming into fruition after facing a series of ups and downs.

He said he wanted to uncover the beauty in matters left undiscussed but very present in society today. The significance of Nina Simone tied together themes of being marginalized in art and in music that he found paralleled dance in metaphorically, applying to even black ballerinas in classical form.

“Where she’s talking about love, to go deeper into the love of the craft, and the love of pursuing something that she otherwise can’t as a result of circumstance and in this case racial and sexist circumstance,” said Shaheed as keys to her work as an activist and an artist. 

“So again, I think I’ve said this before in this same interview, I think sometime before, my job is to somehow make them curious enough or persuade them by hook or crook to get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there and just to bring it out. This is what compels me to compel them. And I will do it by whatever means necessary.” – Nina Simone, By Any Means Necessary (Interview).”

Black Swan aims to tap into human existence by reveling in its accomplishments while contemplating its shortcomings. It’s a social reflection for a present time that hopes to shed perspective and enlighten through choreography and motion.

“It is the woman’s voice, we are talking about black lives matter but we are not talking about gay men, the black female, that is the least that we talk about, rarely ever,” he said.

The show also featured Concepts in Choreography, a young group dancers from East Orange, New Jersey that lit up the stage. The students opened for Black Swan and then later joined cast for their grande finale.

“Young, mature, retired, gay, straight, asian, that is the world we are living in, it represents the harmony and diversity of the 22nd century,” said Shaheed. 

Dance Iquail was founded to unite and nurture a community of young, talented, and driven dancers that span across various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Shaheed is currently involved with The Harlem School of the Arts, The Ailey School and Steps on Broadway as a faculty member, and is also the recipient of numerous dance awards. 

To support further growth and opportunity, Dance Iquail formed a kickstarter devoted to the ongoing project at

The next performance of Black Swan will be in Philadelphia at the Mandell Theater on Feb. 25-28th. For more information visit

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