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PEAK Performances to Present Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theater's STRANGE FRUIT

Strange Fruit draws its title from the 1937 poem and song of the same name by Abel Meeropol and made famous by the great jazz singer Billie Holiday.

PEAK Performances to Present Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theater's STRANGE FRUIT

PEAK Performances at Montclair State University will present Strange Fruit, from Tony-nominated and Bessie-winning choreographer Donald Byrd and his Seattle-based company Spectrum Dance Theater, February 10-13 at the Alexander Kasser Theater. This dance-theater work embodies his personal response to the legacy of lynchings as a form of racial terrorism. Byrd explains, "For 100+ years, there's been no acknowledgement for the most part about these lynchings. It's a little bit like those people have not been buried. We are offering a prayer up to them. To their memory."

Performances of Strange Fruit take place February 10, 11, and 12 at 7:30pm, and February 13 at 3pm. Running time is 80 minutes, including a 40-minute performance, a 10-minute break, and a 30-minute talkback. Byrd considers the discussion an integral part of the production. Tickets are $50 (and free for MSU undergraduates, with valid ID) and can be purchased at peakperfs.org or 973.655.5112. The Alexander Kasser Theater is located at 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ, on the Montclair State University campus.

Strange Fruit draws its title from the 1937 poem and song of the same name by Abel Meeropol and made famous by the great jazz singer Billie Holiday-which metaphorically address lynching as a tool of racial terrorism during the Jim Crow Era. For this dance/theater work, Byrd transforms these brutal facts into abstract, expressionist vignettes set to a score that samples music ranging from Negro spirituals to Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto's haunting Attack/Transition.

The cast of Strange Fruit includes Nia-Amina Minor as She Who Sees, Davione Gordon as The Man, Nile Alicia Ruff as The Woman, Josephine Howell as The Singer, and Spectrum Dance Theater company members Chloe Brown (apprentice), Marco Farroni, Hutch Hagendorf, Justine Hannan, Marte Osiris Madera, Kaitlyn Nguyen, Lillie Pincus (apprentice), Nathanaël Santiago, and Jaclyn Wheatley as The Mob. (Mary Sigward is an understudy for The Mob.)

In addition to choreography and direction by Donald Byrd, the production features scenic design by Jack Mehler; lighting design by Sara Torres, reconstructed by David Mackie; video design by Travis Mouffe; sound design by Robertson Witmer; and costume design by Doris Black.

Strange Fruit is the first of five PEAK Performances presentations that will be captured this season by Alla Kovgan, a filmmaker commensurate with the work being offered-and the state-of-the-art technology used to capture performance-at the Alexander Kasser Theater. Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times called Kovgan's 3D film Merce (2019) "a visual wonder," and Tomris Laffly, in Variety, deemed it "spectacular," writing "this is what an artform celebrating the very nature and a practitioner of another artform should look and feel like." Marina Harss wrote in The New Yorker, "Kovgan's film succeeds in a way that most dance documentaries do not: as an art object in and of itself."

Working with Director of Photography Mia Cioffi Henry, Kovgan will capture Strange Fruit, Netta Yerushalmy's Movement (March 17-20), Gandini Juggling's Smashed2 (April 21-24), Familie Flöz's Hotel Paradiso (May 5-8), and Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company's Curriculum II (June 9-12). The films will eventually screen on PEAK Performances' PEAK Plus platform, which allows remote audiences to engage with the work of visionaries of contemporary performance.



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