Roger Lee said he thought Black History Month shouldn’t just be an examination of black history, but a celebration of it.
Lee and his dance company, Roger Lee Dance LLC, is hosting the second annual Black History Celebration at the Performance Garage on Feb. 6-7 at 8 p.m.
The show is a dance showcase that highlights the talents of company members as well as guest choreographers to portray their appreciation of black history.
“There’s nothing like it,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of performance history shows in the city analyzing black history, but I thought there was nothing specific to dance.”
Lee, owner, choreographer, director and dancer of Roger Lee Dance, LLC, has been a part of the performing arts industry since he was a high school student, eventually completing his studies at Drexel. Lee also taught jazz dance as an adjunct professor at Temple in Fall 2014.
Other company dancers include Jackie McLay, a Temple alumna with her bachelor’s in dance and marketing, Tiana Ligon and Sekai Harris. Many people have accredited their professional dancing to Lee and his company.
Since the first event last year, the Black History Celebration has gained media attention and recognition in the community.
“It was so cool to have a wide range of folks in attendance,” Lee said. “We want to make this more accessible to everybody [and] offer a sense of togetherness and bringing people to it.”
The first act of the show is all guest choreography. Lee said he opened submissions to the community and other dance companies to submit choreography for the show. This year, he received 12 submissions from not only local companies, but dance groups across the country.
“I had no idea what the reception would be from the community when I opened up submissions,” Lee said. “So we’re just excited that there were so many people willing to be involved.”
In the end, he picked five submissions to showcase in the first act of the show.
“They each showed different sides of black history,” Lee said. “Some showed segregation, some pay tribute to James Brown and are more of a celebration. One showcases the LGBT struggles in the black community. They’re all different.”
The second act will feature his own company’s choreography. The company right now is made of five members, including Lee and four other women. Their portion of the show is called “Must Be The Music.” Lee said they will highlight music throughout black history through dance. Some of the genres include disco, soul and gospel, all set to his own choreography.
“I used different genres within black history,” Lee said. “I think it’s cool because there’s jazz dance, hip hop, contemporary.”
Lee said the show is not “a history lesson,” but a celebration.
“I did it to unify Philadelphia,” Lee said. “It’s a city that is so diverse. I feel like not all people think black history is for them, but the whole purpose is a celebration above all else. It’s not just black history – it’s a celebration first and foremost. I think so much of that has to do with community. I just wanted to bring people together, and what better way through music and dance?”
Ashley Caldwell and Emily Rolen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org