In the world premiere of SHOT, director and choreographer, Donald Byrd, exposes the vulnerability of the Black body through dance, spoken word, music and video that evokes a bodily response. Byrd brings to life the fear and anguish Black folks experience when encountered by police at Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Leo K. SHOT is the first of four productions included in Spectrum Dance Theater’s 2017 AMERICAN – Identity, Race or Culture? season.
Byrd produced SHOT as a response to the video released by Rakeyia Scott of her husband, Keith Lamont Scott’s murder by police in Charlotte, NC on Sept. 20, 2016. In the video, recorded on Ms. Scott’s cell phone, she begs the police not to shoot her husband. After gun shots fire, Ms. Scott maintains an air of anger, newly mixed with despair, as she continues speaking to the police. Byrd writes, “like a ton of bricks, it hit me – this man who had just been shot was a husband, a father, somebody’s son and someone loved.”
The production opened with the reading of the names of many Black folks who were murdered by police since Michael Brown’s death on August 9th, 2014 through the summer of 2016. The dancers filed onto the glaringly white stage assuming a strong stance and harsh gaze with their hands up – an element repeated frequently throughout the performance. Dance solos, duos and quartets to blues, jazz and hip-hop inspired songs. Those not performing sat on stage, eyes fixed on the dancers’ every move, perhaps indicative of the Black body constantly under scrutiny.
Nia-Amina Minor’s visceral presence refused to go unnoticed; she managed to command the stage with grace and power. Her recitation (yes, the dancers speak!) of Reykia Scott’s pleas with the police are utterly bone-chilling, captivating and uncomfortable. The bodily tension grows as you are forced to sit in that un-comfortability without the hope of reconciliation.
Rather than an intermission, Byrd took the stage and gave “The Talk” that Black parents give their children as they get older. Managing encounters with the police was at the forefront of the monologue, which included sentiments to remain calm, keep your hands visible, and shut up. For some in the audience, this was their first time hearing this training that others have heard all too many times.
The juxtaposition of the inherent strength of the dancers’ bodies with the disempowerment of Black folks in police encounters was striking throughout the entire performance, but most notably in the closing scene. Each member of the company performed cathartic solos and larger combinations as a requiem to many of the lives lost to police brutality.
Donald Byrd tells a story that elicits humanity and love. He allows the viewer to look beyond the Black face and see the human being by giving movement and life to victims of police brutality. The power of his work is in employing dance as part of the solution to breaking the barrier between racial identity and humanness.
In the words of Donald Byrd himself, “take a chance” and see SHOT.
Shot by Spectrum Dance Theater + Donald Byrd. Runtime: 85 minutes, no intermission. Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Leo K., 155 Mercer St, Seattle, 98109. 7: 30 PM Thurs – Sat; 2 PM Sun. Runs Jan 19 – Feb 4. Tickets: seattlerep.org/Buy/Tickets/Production/6300 Info: https://www.seattlerep.org/ or (206) 443-2222