Dance professor choreographs discussion on race

Published: Feb. 15, 2017 at 6:03 PM CST
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A Sam Houston State University assistant professor is using dance to inspire conversations about race.

Assistant Dance professor Elijah Gibson realizes that in today's world the race debate is pushed more and more to the front.

"I think everyone has their own way of dealing with society,” said Gibson. “[Dance is] just the avenue I decided to take, that's where my art is."

In 2015, Gibson choreographed a piece called “We are Greenwood,” a visual description of the dual lives people of color live in America.

"We have to try to assimilate to American culture,” said Gibson. “But, while doing that it's like were giving up our own identity and cultural background."

Last August, the piece was performed at a Jacob's Pillow dance recital in Massachusetts.

"That was a predominantly white audience and I didn't know how they would respond,” said Gibson. “It's the same thing, just positive overwhelming feedback."

Joel Rivera is a sophomore studying under Gibson and performed in "We are Greenwood."

"It's not even so much people coming up to us telling us thank,” said Rivera. “We’re able to engage in an intellectual conversation about race and ethnicity."

"A lot of the relationships that were built in the piece were true to us and was individualized for us,” said Alexis Alexander, a grad student under Gibson.

There all people of all backgrounds who study under Gibson, but he's finding common ground with dance.

“It’s not always about race issues,” said Gibson. “I like to deal with the human condition. It can be affairs of the heart, love, heartbreak or happiness. It’s not always a negative; I think it’s more informative if anything.”

Gibson went to high school in Bryan and before becoming an assistant professor at Sam Houston State he danced professionally in Chicago and toured the world.