MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — In celebration of Black History Month, Christal Brown, chair of the Middlebury dance program, will reprise a multimedia performance piece she created in 2013 exploring the “public life and inner searching” of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Collaborating with six professional dancers, including alumnus Cameron McKinney ’14, Brown’s piece blends her own choreography with multimedia projections, music, and Ali’s own spoken-word excerpts to form a powerfully expressive work. The piece will be performed at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater on February 26-27 at 7 p.m.
The Opulence of Integrity is an evening-length work divided into four movements. Each movement is introduced by a chorus of narrators who use quotes from Ali to set the scene for each movement experience that follows. An element of projection lays the backdrop for the cultural and social energy of each time period. The musical score was created by Zimbabwean composer Farai Malianga, whose contemporary take on the subject matter supports the choreography every step of the way. Lighting design by Nick Hung, who Brown describes as the “magic man,” provides the audience with the feeling of watching history through the frames of old tattered photos. Aya Shibahara’s designed the costumes.
Middlebury student Jabari Matthew ’17 portrays the voice of Ali in the production. A theatre major, Matthew says it’s been a fun challenge to capture the spirit of Ali in all his complexity. “The things he says will make people laugh, but will also help them remember the things that were happening at that time and the sorts of things that he was battling against,” says Matthew.
Brown says the show’s multimedia projections are designed to illuminate not just the life of Ali, but the “social spaces” at important moments in Ali’s life, including race riots, segregation, and his draft card for the Vietnam War.
“I hope audiences always leave this show with a renewed sense of personal greatness,” said Brown. “The moments that we interact and the moments we actually take the courage to do better are the moments that change us and everyone around us for the better.”
Tickets to the two performances of The Opulence of Integrity are available through the Town Hall Theater Box Office. 802-382-9222.