Tag Archive | "BAAD"

Haiti through dance

Audio slideshow by Elettra Fiumi and David Patrick Alexander.

As part of the BlakTino Festival at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, the KaNu Dance Theater troupe performed a show based on Haiti’s struggle for independence from France in 1804. Dance movements with chains represented the fight against slavery by the French and songs about significant leaders of the Haitian Revolution, like Toussaint L’Ouverture, celebrated the freedom attained through this rebellion.

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Dancing in Defiance

Dressed in a “BAAD” sweatshirt and black track pants, the fiery 47-year-old director of the Barretto Street Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance welcomed the audience to the October 16 dance performance with a strip show.

Arthur Aviles whipped off his sweatshirt to reveal a spaghetti-strapped tank top. Then he peeled off his pants and bent over, so the audience could read “BAAD Ass Woman” on his ladies-style tight red underwear. All items were for sale, later, after the show.

To anyone who hadn’t read about the recent anti-gay assault in the Bronx, this wild display would seem normal for the academy, which caters to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

“We’re scared and we don’t want to be in fear,” said Aviles later, who is openly gay. “So we turn fear into defiance.”

James Atkinson, Khiara Bridges and Edgar Peterson performing at BAAD! Photo: Connie Preti

Artists performing at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. Photo: Connie Preti

Over a week ago in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx, police said 11 members of the Latin King Goonies, a local gang, carried out what officials have called the most gruesome hate crime in recent memory. Using a baseball bat and a plunger, the alleged attackers sodomized two 17-year-old boys and a 30-year-old man they suspected of being gay, beating them for hours and later robbing and beating the older man’s brother in his home.

Despite the notoriety of this attack and a wave of other anti-gay traumatic events, including the beating of a man in the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and the suicide of a gay Rutgers student, the performances on Saturday night seemed, if anything, emboldened.

The first dance was set to a song by the flamboyant pop star Adam Lambert, and many of the subsequent male performers were dressed in brightly colored, transparent tights and underwear.

Shizu Homma, who performed a solo act, modified her planned performance after the attack by starting out in drag, instead of her usual t-shirt and pants, eventually stripping down to rags and writhing on the floor. Her jarring movements reflected the pain of the victims, but also screamed resilience and perseverance.

“Our community is fierce,” said Aviles. “It knows how to stand up to craziness like that, to the macho attitudes of the world.”

As other gay advocacy groups are organizing rallies and political officials are condemning the attack, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance is taking a more active approach.

On November 7, BAAD will host a self-defense class in conjunction with the Center for Anti-Violence Education. If there is a high turnout, the class will be held on a regular basis, said Carlo Quispe, 32, the dance academy’s program manager.

Carlo Quispe is the program manager at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. Photo: Connie Preti

Carlo Quispe is the program manager at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. Photo: Connie Preti

“It’s really the only thing we can do,” said Quispe. “People can continue to grandstand and get on their soapbox. What we want to provide is something more concrete, powerful, tangible. Something people can teach their friends.”

Aviles wishes there were a way to teach tolerance to the people who prey on them.

“I want to see these guys learn something that can change their view about how they see humanity,” Aviles said, referring to the suspects. “Jail is certainly not it.”

Other members of the gay community weren’t quite as sympathetic.

“They should be in solitary confinement, away from society,” said Ruben Thomas, 44, a gay videographer who volunteers at BAAD.

Yet Aviles believes that jail will only punish them, rather than help them to unlearn the intolerance that led them to commit their horrific crime.

“Call me Ann Frank, but I really believe that all people are good at heart,” he said. “And in this case, I really do feel that these guys can learn something. But I don’t think our legal system will allow us to come together in that way.”

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