Hattie Mae’s Juke Joint was a devised musical revue produced as an MFA Dance Thesis. Using 1960’s juke joint culture as a lens, the piece studied the economic struggle and vehement racism African Americans have historically faced and still do today.
Hattie played as the second act to another dance thesis: Rhythm Unbound. These pieces were completely different, so masterful manipulation of a single light plot was essential. This was achieved through the distinction of a saturated and sensual color palette that is highly unusual for dance matched with a keen isolation and modeling of the body that is rare in big musical numbers. It was important to the producer and myself that the rich and colorful culture of this time period and the African American people was not lost in the tradition of dance lighting: unsaturated, diffused, formulaic and suited mostly for thin bodies and pale skin. Establishing warmth and vivacity was also important so that at the show’s climax at a senseless act of violence, it’s sudden absence is as jarring as the violence enacted.
I took special care with this show as I knew I was dealing with a culture and topic that I wanted to capture perfectly in order for the political message to be properly delivered. I took careful note of the style of dance and the song lyrics, always staying in close communication with the producer to ensure that I fulfilled his vision and validated his experience.
Copyright 2016 Alex Casillas
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