Subtle Changes Dance Company will present
a tribute to the influential poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron
at BRIC Studio this month.
Scott-Heron, who was born in 1949, is best known for "The Bottle," "Johannesburg," "Winter in America" and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" - political and African-American-centric works that were seminal to the Black Power movement.
The tribute, "The Statement: 7th Draft," has been choreographed by Subtle Change’s artistic director, Roger C. Jeffrey, a former member of Twyla Tharp’s Tharp! and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. For the 30-year-old choreographer, "The Statement" seems to be an act of love.
"Heron was very brave," Jeffrey told GO Brooklyn. "The questions he asked are very important. There is no one like him in my generation."
It was Scott-Heron’s aggressive street poetry and songwriting skills that inspired many contemporary rappers. Despite his contributions, many young African-Americans don’t know about the man Jeffrey calls "the godfather of hip-hop."
"He’s not what’s happening now," said Jeffrey. "But his voice has more passion than most of my generation has today."
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Heron’s most famous song, is a polemic against the major media, which ignored the deteriorating condition of the inner cities.
"In the ’70s we got so used to watching television, we did not think we had to get out into the battlefield," said Jeffrey. "But when the revolution begins, it will not be televised. You’ll have to be there."
"The Statement: 7th Draft," which Jeffrey has choreographed for 10 dancers, celebrates poetry and its unique relationship with movement. It also relates to the subject matter about which Scott-Heron wrote and sang. The evening-length work is comprised of 12 vignettes laced with iconic quotes and music from Scott-Heron, with additional music from Dick Gregory, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Donny Hathaway and D’Bi Young.
"There is a duet about two brothers who fight against each other because one brother believes the other isn’t black enough," Jeffrey said. "There is a solo about a woman’s personal journey and her acceptance of her failures as well as her understanding of the next step she has to take - moving past herself and realizing she is her own worst enemy. There is a celebration of the group, because we have to unite out of love and not out of hate. We have to work together out of righteousness."
Guest artists participating in "The Statement" include tap dancer Ayodele Casel, vocalist Sandra Jeffrey, MTV2 host Amanda Diva and author-performer Carl Hancock Rux.
Founded in 1997, Subtle Changes is committed to effecting change through performance and education in the arts. The company has performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Aaron Davis’ E-Moves program, the Dancenow Festival, Judson Church, P.S. 122 and the Riverside Church.
For Jeffrey, dance is "about whatever I’m feeling or thinking. It’s about passion, rhythm and depth - what makes it interesting to dance to." Scott-Heron’s anger and fervor have clearly been a motivating force to Jeffrey.
"Gil Scott-Heron’s work has continuously inspired me to question and seek answers beyond the common mediocrity. ’The Statement: 7th Draft’ has become my most humble approach towards thanking Mr. Heron for his courage, consistency and presence," says Jeffrey. Scott-Heron recently performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and performs twice a year at SOBs in Manhattan.
"I was taught to praise people while they are still alive," said Jeffrey. "What I’m doing is holding up a large horn [as is traditionally done in Africa] to let people know what’s going on, to let everyone know how important [Gil Scott-Heron] is."
"The Statement: 7th Draft" will be performed by Subtle Changes Dance Company on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 at 8 pm and Feb. 20 at 3 pm. Tickets are $25, $50 (includes a post-show reception on Feb. 18). BRIC Studio is located at 57 Rockwell Place, 2nd floor, between Dekalb Avenue and Fulton Street in Fort Greene. For tickets and more information, call (718) 527-2011, Ext. 1.