Created during my tenure as a Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts from 2012-2014, this program draws inspiration from jazz legend Max Roach’s seminal album, We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite. This album, originally intended to be released in 1963 to mark the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, was released in the fall of 1960 due to the severity sparked by the sit-ins in Greensboro, NC, and the urgency of the growing civil rights movement in the US and South Africa.
As over-arching commentary for both evenings, I keep going back to Roach’s response when asked about the song, “Freedom Day:” “Freedom itself was so hard to grasp...we don’t really understand what it really is to be free.” At this point in my life, I am very well aware of the freedoms I possess. But as a Black Gay American man, I am equally aware of my limitations and those that exist for so many in a poly-phobic society of our current times.
I began working on When the Wolves Came In after a visit to the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto, South Africa. While there, I became fixated on the power of perception, and the ways that the 13-year-old Pieterson’s death in an anti-Apartheid protest shines a spotlight on questions of personal choice and collective rights in the struggle for freedom. For Michael Brown, Tyler Clementi, Eric Garner, Islan Nettles, and the countless other faceless and nameless women and men facing violence and discrimination, these questions still have terrible resonance.
Max Roach’s album timelessly tackles these very same issues and questions; his jazz work figures as an evaluation of rights perceived through his experience and expressed through his art. As dance works, this program was created to live in a skin well aware of the cyclical hardships of our history, and the very present fear of an unknowable future.
Choreography by Kyle Abraham in collaboration with Abraham.In.Motion
Lighting and Video Design by Dan Scully
Scenic Design by Glenn Ligon
Sound Editing by Sam Crawford
Tour and Production Manager Dan Stearns
Rehearsal Director Matthew Baker
Performed by Matthew Baker, Winston Dynamite Brown, Tamisha Guy, Catherine Ellis Kirk, Jeremy “Jae” Neal, Connie Shiau
Music Composed by Robert Glasper
Music by The Robert Glasper Trio
Costumes by Karen Young
When the Wolves Came In was commissioned and produced by New York Live Arts through its Resident Commissioned Artist Program, with lead support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
When the Wolves Came In is supported, in part, by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The work was developed, in part, through a production residency at On the Boards with support from the National Dance Project, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Support was also provided to New York Live Arts for the commissioning of this work by MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Sets for When the Wolves Came In were donated by Glenn Ligon.