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Raising Arizona Kids

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Students explore history through dance

2012 "Sister Moses" performance. Photo by Heather Hill, courtesy of Desert Dance Theatre.

How many of you listen to your grandparents’ stories? Or know what your parents did when they were children? When 1,400 students gathered last week at Chandler Center for the Arts, a speaker from the Chandler Unified School District opened with these questions. “You have to ask questions,” he told the students, “so you have your parents’ history.”

Students were there for a Desert Dance Theatre performance of “Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman,” which features music, dance and vocal performance highlighting Tubman’s journey from slavery to freedom. Tubman shepherded hundreds of fellow slaves to freedom using a network dubbed the “Underground Railroad.”

After sharing a few facts about Tubman, the speaker reminded students that “history is really alive.” Families can attend an upcoming performance of “Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman” at Paradise Valley Community College on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:30pm.

2012 "Sister Moses" performance. Photo by Heather Hill, courtesy of Desert Dance Theatre.

Desert Dance Theatre artistic directors Marion Kirk Jones, Renee Davis and Lisa R. Chow created “Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman” with music director John D. Anthony. Susan Smith collaborated on both concept and script.

The production features traditional spirituals, slave songs and other music from the Civil War era — which often included lyrics containing coded escape details. During last week’s school performance, several students kept the rhythm by clapping softly or tapping their toes.

More than 60,ooo people in Arizona, Nevada and Texas have seen Desert Dance Theatre perform “Sister Moses: The Story of Harriet Tubman” since it premiered at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix during 1993.

The work stars Renee Davis as Harriet Tubman. Dramatic narration is by Renee Morgan Brooks, and African drumming and music direction is by Step Raptis. It also features a string quartet and small choral ensemble including baritone soloist Greg Dansby.

2012 "Sister Moses" performance. Photo by Heather Hill, courtesy of Desert Dance Theatre.

Seeing Harriet Tubman’s life explored through live performance art is a nice complement to seeing the movie “Lincoln” or watching “The Abolitionists” on PBS.

Click here to learn more about this and other Desert Dance Theatre productions.

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Lynn Trimble

Lynn Trimble writes for RAISING ARIZONA KIDS and covers arts and culture at www.artmusings.com.

 

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