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She Wants to Heal the World Through Second Line

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In most places, people watch or march on parades. In New Orleans, you have another option. This is the second line.

The noun “second line” refers to people who follow the brass band on their way back from the graveyard during Mardi Gras, on a particular Sunday, or at a jazz funeral. Fun music for dancing. The second line is neither official nor planned. It grows and all ages come in with handkerchiefs and umbrellas, turning the parade into a far-flung party.

As an adjective, “second line” can represent a characteristic beat, an afro-carib rhythm flowing through New Orleans music, from which it extends to other jazz, R & B and funk in the world.

“Second line” is also a verb.To The second line is to dance.. There is no set procedure. Everyone is doing it a little differently. However, most practitioners agree on one thing. It means that it is not taught in class.

“You fall into it” is how choreographer and educator Michelle N. Gibson, who grew up in New Orleans, said it in a recent interview. “No one teaches the second line.”

Except that Gibson teaches it or she undertakes it.She teaches some of history at her one-woman show “Takin’It to the Roots” that she brings To Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival in Berkshire on Friday and Saturday.. For the past few years she has also offered second line classes. Workshop called New Orleans Original Back Shop She presents a dubbed version of her “second line aesthetics”.

47-year-old Gibson became a cultural ambassador to his hometown. Melanie George, Associate Curator at Jacobs Pillow, said:

At the Gibson workshop, she begins by helping students find the beats, legs, hips, shoulders, and head bounces of the second line of their body. Since the dance must cover the ground, the struts shift to skip. She calls herself “cheeky and cheeky” and calls herself “Mz. G” a coach who encourages and gives permission. Her most frequent and regular instruction: “Play with it.”

“‘Playing with it’ means playing with your own inner rhythm,” she explained in an interview. “That’s your true you. Everyone got their own different testimony, so everyone’s second line is different, Honey.”

Her testimony is that of the preacher’s daughter. Her father, BA Gibson, was an elder and pastor of the Methodist Bishop’s Church in Africa.When he was a child, he was a minister St. Peter AME ChurchOne of the oldest black congregations in uptown New Orleans.

Gibson’s father did not allow her to join the second line. “My dad didn’t mean to allow me to jump or sway on those streets,” she said. (When I was a teenager, she could be a wise second line.) “But when I grew up in the church and saw people catch the spirit, the Holy Spirit danced. That was my second line. . “

Not far from the church, she found another education. New Orleans Creative Arts Center, She specialized in dance. (Other alumni include Jon Batiste, Harry Connick Jr., and the Marsalis brothers.) After graduating from high school, she spent her summer training at Alvin Ailey School in New York, but hips. When booking a tour at Hope, the group Arrested Development, her mother disapproved her and brought her back home.

Next came, in her words, “struggle, hustle and bustle.” The marriage soon ended in divorce. While caring for her little daughter, she earned a BFA in dance from the University of Tulane and co-starred with various types of local dance companies, including Brazil, West Africa and Hyundai. “I had codified training, but I also joined the community and learned there,” she said.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, Gibson was discharged in 2005 shortly after giving birth to his son. She evacuated with her children. Then she learned that her New Orleans apartment couldn’t live. She moved to Dallas, where she still lives, and is currently teaching at Southern Methodist University.

After a while, she earned a master’s degree in dance and performance research through the Hollins University-American Dance Festival Graduate Program at Duke University. Surrounded by her successful mid-career dancer, she wondered what she had to contribute. She grew up as a dancer in New Orleans. She wanted to dig deeper into the culture, especially after being expelled from her hometown.

The result is the first incarnation of “Takin’It to the Roots,” which she describes as “spicy gumbo” by African drummers and dancers of the company Chuck Davis, the founder of the brass band Dance Africa. “I’ve confirmed that I’ve taken it all in,” she said, showing her roots in Senegambia, Congo, and Haiti (and thus her own roots).

That interest in history has been carried over to her one-woman version of the show she developed at the South Dallas Cultural Center and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans. And it goes through in her view of the second line.

“Looking at the second line, we can see the history of the black people who arrived at the port of Orleans when we were allowed to celebrate,” she said. She talked about Congo Square, the location of New Orleans where enslaved people were allowed to drum and dance in the early 19th century. This is the place where African traditions were woven and maintained. She talked about social aid and pleasure clubs with the charities that sponsored the jazz funeral and second line parade. And she talked about trauma, Katrina, those who had to leave, and those who remained in the still confused city.

“That’s what you see with footwork and body thrust,” she said. “You are watching their story.”

Gibson carefully specifies that what she teaches is her own second-line aesthetic, “based on my training and how I want to share it.” “You can’t expect that,” she said. “You have to live it.” She sees herself as an intermediary between the New Orleans community and academia, and inserts herself into conversations about New Orleans culture, “Origin and it. Claims “respect for the people who actually belong to it.”

At Jacob’s Pillow performance, Gibson transforms “Takin It To The Roots,” originally designed for theaters, into a matrix format. Her audience follows her to locations around Congo Square and the campus that represents the Black Church. However, the last second line of performance is standard. “I always take people from the theater to the street,” she said. “There are no shows to attend with Mz. G We’re not going out in the end.”

Of course, there is also her brass band, NOJO7, drawn from the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Its artistic director, drummer Adonis Rose, states that he considers Gibson to be the most distinctive of her teachers. About the method on the second line. “Her class is tied to his own mission of” exporting our culture to people who can’t be experienced otherwise, “he added.

However, Rose also emphasized the “spiritual experience” of following Gibson when she led the brass band procession as a grand marshal. This is another role she takes very seriously. Before accepting the invitation to do that, she asked for permission from the first female grand marshal she had ever seen, Wanda Rouzan.. “It’s a calling, it’s anointing,” Gibson said. “I grew up understanding that there is the highest one, and that’s why I strut like I strut.”

“This is no longer a dance to me,” she continued, taking the preacher’s rhythm. “My practice is more motivated by unity, harmony, rolling and moving forward together in the same rhythm. That’s what the world needs. I want to heal the world. Strut. “

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