The WOKENESS Festival


WOKE?!?! is a series of dance and non-dance events intended to push against assumptions around race, equity, gender, and justice, while creating an environment for examining the presumptions around being “Woke.”


The dance events, choreographed and directed by Artistic Director Donald Byrd and performed by the Spectrum Dance Company, present these issues in a factually objective way, in order to engage with the material in a subjectively honest way. The dance aims to humanize the facts and numbers, face the unfaceable, and inevitably, disrupt the comfortable patterns of thought that have been previously resigned to the subconscious.


To complement the content of the dance presentations, the humanities component will offer non-dance event opportunities for conversation. With Vivian Philips as the producer and curator, these conversations will ideally illuminate the performance content while also creating deeper community dialogue.  The humanities component will deconstruct the content of the dance presentations while drawing attention to the state of affairs for persons of color in contemporary America in general and Seattle in particular.


“A presumption of guilt and dangerousness”…

Through visceral and urgent contemporary dance theater, you are invited to contemplate the alarming and continuous murder of black people by American law enforcement. SHOT is an unapologetic critique of the current American landscape, where black people find themselves in an intense cycle of fear, intimidation, aggression, and death.

Dance, Dance, Dance #2

This program represents the second iteration of this series (the first Dance, Dance, Dance program was presented in 2016 at The Moore Theatre). Dance, Dance, Dance programs are meant to showcase the dancers – their physicality, versatility and the unique way they respond to movement. One of the works on this program, Merce Cunningham’s Crises, is part of the GLOBAL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE CHOREOGRAPHER’S LEGACY.

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. The lyrics are an extended metaphor linking a tree’s fruit with lynching victims. The impetus for this world premiere work is the employment of lynching as a tool of racial terrorism during the Jim Crow Era.

For this dance/theater work, the facts of lynching act as a springboard into a highly personal interior space and state of mind. Strange Fruit tracks choreographer Donald Byrd’s feelings as a response to lynching and plays out as a series of dance/theater vignettes. The piece is abstract but informed by the reality of these brutal acts of terrorism.