Michelle Grant-Murray Dances Through Ancestral Moves and Female MemoriesEXPAND
Courtesy of Michelle Grant-Murray

Michelle Grant-Murray Dances Through Ancestral Moves and Female Memories

Daily, Michelle Grant-Murray regularly steps into the varied roles of mother-wife-daughter-teacher-dancer-choreographer, so it is no surprise that her latest solo work, Kahina, A Tangled Root, is an exploration of the female body in all of its complex manifestations.

“I started working on it as an investigation of my own body and it starting to develop into other things, and became very layered,” Murray says. “It became layered with menopause, the middle age woman, and all the eggs that we carry, nurturing. It talks about aspects of nurturing and fear, and the complexity of the memories that a body holds.”

Developed during her time as the Deering Estate’s first ever choreographer in residence, Grant-Murray will present a work in progress of Kahina, A Tangled Root, on Saturday, before she takes the work to Italy for its world premiere at the Florence Biennale this October. Trained in classical ballet, Grant-Murray received her MFA in choreography from Jacksonville University and an MA in African Studies from Florida International University. As the dance coordinator for Miami-Dade College Kendall, where she teaches ancestral dance movement and Olujimi dance technique classes, Grant-Murray, has spent years empowering and training young dancers. With the recent publication of her book “Beyond the Surface: American Dance History,” her position as a leading dance educator in Miami is unquestionable. She thrives in juggling multiple roles, and in knowing when the time has come for her to embrace new opportunities.

Kahina was one such new opportunity. Approaching 50, with two her children graduating college, and countless other young dancers trained under her tutelage, the time has come for her to refocus on her own creativity, artistry and the stories in her own body.

“My body is ready for it now, was my body ready for it before?” she muses. “I don’t know if I was mature enough to really step up there like this. When you do this kind of solo work, you are naked before the world, really. So was I mature enough to handle being naked before the world before? I don’t know. But I am now.”

Kahina, despite all of its complexities, is stripped down and bare. The stage setting is deliberately sparse, featuring just Grant-Murray and musical accompaniment by Prince Emmanuel Abiodun Aderele, an international Sacred Yoruba percussionist from Nigeria. Provocative, inquisitive and empowering, Kahina is a powerful dance work.

Michelle Grant-Murray Dances Through Ancestral Moves and Female Memories (2)EXPAND
Courtesy of Michelle Grant-Murray

“The work that I put on other people is very technical, but the work that came out of my body was much more basic, more on the natural movement of my body, influenced by the way that I was feeling,” she explains about the process to create the movement vocabulary use in Kahina.

“But the work that comes out of my own body, I found, was much more authentic to the natural movement of my body and the way that I was feeling, things that I deeply, deeply connected with things that I’m very, very passionate about — and finding a way to say that and to speak that out of my body. It was always difficult to try and put that on someone else’s body”

She’s guided by intuition. “How do I sense the energy that is around me? Those are the types of things that come out in the choreography. It’s almost like I transform myself into that place and bring it on stage.”

Sometimes, she adds, “it’s not all about the dancing. It’s about the people that you connect with. It’s about the community. And that really inspires me.”

– Rebekah Lanae Lengel, artburstmiami.com

Michelle Grant-Murray’s Kahina, A Tangled Root, Friday, 2 p.m., The Deering Estate, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Miami. Tickets are free, but RSVP required and seating is limited to 50 guests; stryky@miamiadade.gov or 305-235-1668 ext. 238.

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