UNCSA: In coastal North Carolina, alumnus Kevin Lee-Y Green fosters healing through dance and theatre
Over the last several years, Green has experienced grief in his mother's death and a destructive house fire (both in 2014) and regional disasters like Hurricane Florence in 2018 — with both personal and communal losses. Throughout that time he's continued making art and using dance and theater to guide the community through its trauma and healing processes.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has made him realize his vulnerability as an artist and within the larger community, prompting him to build additional safety nets. "COVID has driven me to build up the institution part of Techmoja," he says. To that end, the funding from the National Dance Project and The Black Seed are deeply important.
However, the uncertainty and inequities COVID-19 has illuminated in the Black community are not new or unknown to Green. With ongoing issues like gentrification of coastal communities, which has pushed largely Black communities into flood zones, he says the research and reflection needed to withstand COVID-19 were already in place. "We've been living in a world like that anyway," he says. "I've just tried to stay the course."
His work running his own company has its challenges and its rewards, he says. But it has taught him the value of discovering his own path and embracing his roots.
Wilmington Magazine: Dancing Across Divides - Thought provoking artist Kevin Lee-Y-Green gives sacred stories a voice
From segregation to police brutality, from school shootings to immigration, Green’s Theatre and Dance company ‘Techmoja,’ has been highlighting these uncomfortable, important and triggering issues since its inception in 2009. “My goal is to make the unseen visible, to humanize the often dehumanized and to present a visual display of a situation,” explains Green.
Exploring particular events and/or issues through the lens of the people involved is integral to his work. Plowing through hours of interviews and relevant footage to ground the portrayal in authentic experiences is vital to Greens’ creative process. Oftentimes a specific image or detail will be the starting point for his choreography, which may be layered with cultural symbolism, live music, video footage, and informative sound bites creating a multi-media fusion that is as deeply moving as it is thought provoking.
Green has experienced racial bias, both subtle and overt throughout his life. In terms of recognizing the local need to establish a new kind of company, a particularly influential moment occurred when Green was invited to perform a solo to Mr. Bojangles on the steps of Bellamy Mansion right here in Wilmington. Facing the old slave quarters and dancing for a predominately white audience, Green vowed that no one in his company would ever be subjected to the feeling of minstrelsy that he experienced that day.
Encore: Dance with social justice local choreographer Kevin Lee-Y Green brings his vision to New York and ILM stages
"Kevin Lee-y Green has been a force on Wilmington’s theater and dance scene since he was a kid, performing in and choreographing multiple shows for both his company, Techmoja Dance & Theatre Co., and others.
“We’ve done a lot in Wilmington,” Green said. “But I just wanted to expand and test my work in a different city.”
To that end, Green has been seeking opportunities outside the Port City, and in March he took seven of his dancers to New York to perform at Dixon Place in Manhattan as part of the quarterly 8 in Show series, which gives emerging and established choreographers the chance to showcase new, 5- to 12-minute pieces. Since the 1980s, Dixon Place has been known as a spot for incubating new works, and such artists as Blue Man Group and John Leguizamo began their careers there…"
"Dancers move with grace upon the seemingly bare stage at Thalian Hall, ebbing and flowing with one another in perfect fluidity. Suddenly, the dancers are motionless on the ground, as sounds of ambulance sirens and 9-1-1 calls rise from the stillness. Footage of reporters on the scene of a shooting flash across the screen from the back of the stage. A steady increasing heartbeat can be heard as an EKG pulse streaks from one end of the room to the other. A single dancer rises with her arms crossed; the chaotic footage fades away, only to be replaced by a sea of 49 faces. They are the people who were killed when a security guard opened fire upon the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016…"
"Green returns as director and choreographer, more mature than the 22-year-old who started his own company in an effort to create more opportunities for black performers on Wilmington stages.
Over the past four years, Techmoja has staged nearly a dozen full productions. From the beginning, Green’s choices have been ambitious."