Glo, Atlanta’s innovative, convention-breaking dance group, recently announced the debut of a performance collaboration with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Titled Movement Choirs, the project transforms the grounds and interior galleries of the center into an intimate performance space that guides viewers through the center while also enhancing the museum experience.
I attended the preview for Movement Choirs, and it was powerful. Though an in-town Atlanta resident, I’m not one to venture out to major downtown tourist attractions unless I’m entertaining out-of-town guests, so I was very pleased that glo was able to entice me out of my usual bubble to visit the museum. In their ushering of viewers through the exhibits, the dancers help transform the space from tourist destination to a moving, interactive art experience, making the Center even more emotionally powerful.
The performance began outdoors on the adjacent public lawn, with the dancers lightheartedly skipping, jumping, and playing among the crepe myrtles. To the delight and surprise of company founder and movement artist Lauri Stallings and her crew, about a half dozen viewers started mimicking the dancers—we laughed, held hands, spun around, skipped up the sidewalk, and were brought back to the experience of being kids again. Before we entered the galleries, the dancers got viewers to form a circle so they could literally climb on our shoulders. Stallings and glo always do an excellent job of interjecting interactivity into the pieces, and this performance was particularly effective.
The real treat of Movement Choirs is traveling through the galleries with the dancers. They slowly move visitors through the different exhibitions, allowing time to enjoy both the dance and the gallery installations. Sometimes, the dancers take part in interactive exhibitions at the center, encouraging viewers to do the same. One example is a diner counter reenactment for which viewers put on headphones and sit at a diner counter—the stool shakes as you hear people being violently beaten, and voices threatening to kill you. I was initially hesitant to jump into such an intense experience, but the dancers nudged me over and helped me get past my fears.
Movement Choirs’ enhancement of the emotional experience of touring the center lent a more personal connection to the displays. In a particularly memorable moment, the viewers and the dancers found themselves packed into a tiny room devoted to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This room is disconcerting because news broadcasts of the assassination and hard rock music play on loop and lights from TV screens flash nonstop. In this jarring environment, the dancers went up to each viewer and hugged them for a prolonged time. (Most of us knew what to expect from glo, but virgin viewers might be taken aback by such intimacy.) The dancers then guided everyone to hold hands in a circle while we moved around the room, suggesting that our strength as a group could overpower the fear and hatred surrounding MLK’s murder.
Kristina Brown, one of the glo dancers, describes this experience beautifully: “These are all our stories, human trauma and hope, and to have someone just present with you as you let yourself ride those waves is incredibly profound to me. I cannot speak for the public, but for me, intentionally being with people inside of those exhibits brings a layer of reality, a sort of reminder that we are in it together. We have to be. We need each other.”
Movement Choirs schedule:
June 15-July 6
Wednesdays and Fridays
Performances are included with admission to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, $10-15.
Matthew Terrell writes, photographs, and creates videos in the fine city of Atlanta. His work can be found regularly on the Huffington Post, where he covers such subjects as the queer history of the South, drag culture, and gay men’s health issues. He was a participant in Cycle 2 of BURNAWAY’s Art Writers Mentorship Program.