Many Faces of Movement
by Cameron Boyle
On October 17th, 2015, I had the privilege of attending "Many Faces of Movement: Where Life Meets Art" at SOPAC (South Orange Performing Arts Center) in South Orange, New Jersey. I've been to many events that honor people changing the world locally or globally. But I've never been to a tribute as moving and multi-faceted as this inspiring extravaganza, produced by Michelle Millard.
Michelle (left, receiving flowers from performers), a dancer and choreographer, envisioned performing artists interpreting the experiences of local heroes through music, dance and spoken word. One hero honored on this evening was Evan Robbins who founded the organization "Breaking the Chain Through Education". Robbins spearheads the fund-raising and consciousness-raising efforts on the issue of human trafficking with his students at Metuchen High School. Michelle was inspired to choreograph Shanai Henderson in an Alvin Ailey-style dance which expresses what she imagines to be the hardship, emotional turmoil, trauma, and possible liberation of child slaves in Ghana. To be moved as I was by this paring of global service with performance art, please first see this video link--- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRNodlj37fI ---then see Shanai's performance:
An equally inspiring honoree/artist pairing was Delrina Johnson--founder of "The Safe House", a shelter for victims of domestic violence, with Dominique Robinson dancing "Brand New Me" and "Saving The Best For Last". And then there was Charles Cobertt, an autistic young man who has used competitive swimming at the Montclair YMCA to thrive and achieve excellence. This testament to a young man's potential was powerfully followed by Ausar Olugbala, founder of "The Definition", a program that uplifts and empowers communities through physical education:
"Many Faces of Movement" was what I hope will be the first annual Essex County, New Jersey-version of CNN Heroes. Not only were the presentations and performances first-rate, there was a fully catered meal and dj'd after-party for participants and attendees! Kudos to visionary Michelle Millard who imagined and produced a groundbreaking tribute which showcases the best of humanity and inspires us all to love more and live better.
Two more performances which moved and transformed the audience: