Controversial ballet coming to Phillips Center


Dancer Julie Belafonte, right, who portrays the white woman in “Southland,” with another dancer. (Photo courtesy of the Phillips Center)

Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.

The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will bring to Gainesville a recreation of dancer Katherine Dunham's controversial ballet, “Southland,” which will be performed by the Denver-based Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company.

Facts

DUNHAM BALLET

What: “Southland,” the controversial ballet performed by the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company.
When: 7:30 p.m. July 15-16.
Where: Phillips Center, SW 34th Street and Hull Road.
Tickets: $10-$20.
Information: Call 352-392-2787 or visit www.performingarts.ufl.edu.

Michael Blachly, director of the Phillips Center, said “Southland,” which was banned in the U.S. in the 1950s, tells the story of a black fieldhand who is accused of raping a white woman. It also includes a scene from his lynching. This performance is not recommended for children under age 12.

“Southland” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. July 15-16 at the Phillips Center at SW 34th Street and Hull Road.

Tickets, which are $20 general admission and $10 for students, are available at the Phillips Center Box Office at 352-392-2787 or 800-905-2787 or at www.ticketmaster.com.

After disappearing for nearly 60 years, “Southland,” which was first seen in the U.S. in 2012 in Denver, is making its second U.S. performance in Gainesville. It was first performed in Chile in 1951 and enjoyed a short run in Paris in 1953.

Dunham (1909-2006) was an American dancer, choreographer, author, educator and social activist, who had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and directed her own dance company for many years.

Following the Phillips Center performance, Blachly said there will be a discussion with Robinson and Julie Belafonte, who portrays the white woman in “Southland.”

The Robinson Dance Company recreation of “Southland” was funded through a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

“The National Endowment of the Arts has invested a significant amount of money into the re-construction of this piece, which speaks to its relevance and importance,” Blachly said.

“The work depicts a difficult time in our country that had deep racial wounds. These are best understood when put into a historical context and not left unseen.”

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