17andunarmedGuest artists from the Asbury Park Technical Academy of Dance  performed a program on Black History at Red Bank Regional High School, including a powerful piece inspired by the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School 

In commemoration of February’s Black History Month observance, Red Bank Regional High School recently invited guest performers from the Asbury Park Technical Academy of Dance (APTAD) to give a presentation in the school auditorium. Morgan Brunson, a junior at RBR and a member of the dance academy, introduced the APTAD and its founder Michelle Burrell, who told the audience, “It is important to know that what we do today becomes tomorrow’s Black History.”

A professionally trained ballerina turned dance educator, Burrell founded the APTAD to bring the dream of dance to many students in the Asbury Park area, who may otherwise not have had the opportunity. She created and narrated the powerful program, which through a combination of storytelling, narration and dance choreographed to historic events and spiritual songs, illustrated the history of African Americans.

ThepeoplecouldflyDancers from APTAD performed “The People Could Fly,” choreographed to the African American folktale told by slaves to their children, who imagined an end to their bondage.

Early in the program, dynamic storyteller Lorraine Stone read the African American folktale, “The People Could Fly,” which she introduced to the students with the fact that “Long before there were cell phones, computers, TVs and radios, there was the African storyteller, the Griot, who passed down the stories from generation to generation.”

The dancers visualized her tale of a proud people who had the ability to fly over their African continent. Then, their wings were clipped in the crowded slave ships that brought them to toil and chains in America.  In their repression, some were reminded of the magical words that enabled them to soar above their bondage; those left behind to pick cotton under the slave master’s whip could only use their imagination to plot their escape.

Michelle Burrell narrated the heartbreaking story of a slave whose whole family was sold off, one by one, on the dreaded auction block, a real-life account that was recorded by the Federal Writer’s Project of 1935. The performers illustrated this horrific injustice, dancing to the Negro Spiritual “No More Auction Block for Me.”

The program traveled through time as Michelle Burrell informed the RBR students that African Americans prevailed through the darkness and contributed greatly to American History as “inventors, writers, engineers, scientist, and ballerinas,” citing the famous African American ballerinas Raven Wilkinson and Misty Copeland. Two beautiful numbers followed with the dancers dressed in brilliant African costumes, dancing to “One by One” (made famous in The Lion King) as well as a classical solo ballerina performance by Jordyn Postell of Neptune Township.

The program concluded with a powerful performance entitled “17 and Unarmed,” recalling the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in Florida two years ago.

Visit the APTAD website for more information on the group and its mission.