Preview: Mary—A Holiday Dansical by Erin Barnett and Black Girls Dance Ensemble

The story goes that almost anybody Black from the South Side of Chicago either went to Mayfair Academy or knew someone who went there. The academy closed in 2021 after six decades of training dancers, musicians, and actors. The building was sold to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project aka CHRP (pronounced “chirp”) and thanks to the community and performers who came out of Mayfair a wonderful tradition is thriving as Black Girls Dance. This weekend founder Erin Barnett and her team of choreographers is staging Mary—A Holiday Dansical, Barnett’s take on The Black Nativity.

Black Girls Dance Ensemble. Photo Jordyn A. Bush.

Barnett has taken the story of the Nativity and recreated it from a teenager’s perspective in a contemporary society driven by technology and no sense of purpose. The show opens with Deitrick Haddon’s LXW Great God showcasing the entire ensemble. Meika Haywood, a senior from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, dances the role of Mary. She plays a teenager who is confused about her purpose but steadfast in her belief in God. Mary—A Holiday Dansical also features Deeply Rooted dancer Mekeba Malik as Joseph.

This production has really great music from Mary Mary, Whitney Houston, Adele, Deitrick Haddon’s LXW, and others that will rev up the Spirit of Christmas and move you. Some of these students attend the Chicago Academy for the Arts and Asia’s Dance Factory in addition to Black Girls Dance.

Meika Haywood and Mekeba Malik. Photo by Jordyn A. Bush.

When I spoke with Barnett, she told me that she was in “production mode,” which I remembered quite well from my days in school musicals. Barnett runs a tight ship and gives positive encouragement to everyone to give their very best from how they exit to how they stand in formation and third position. Barnett has a team that is extra eyes and encouragement for the dancers. Reesie Davis, Flo Walker-Harris, and Grace Robinson were also in production mode. The rehearsal was done with the imagery that will be projected behind the dancers, so it will be a feast for the eyes, ears, and soul.

Barnett is an accomplished professional, having done two tours with The Lion King; she made history as the first African American Clara in the Tribune Charities production of The Nutcracker. This team works to mentor their dancers and have them ready to move forward professionally.

This is a one-night-only production at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., at 7 pm on Sunday, December 18. Tickets are $40 and are available at ticketfalcon.com/e/mary2022/. For more information, visit blackgirlsdance.org. You may not be visited by the usual ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, or Future, but you will be taken on a journey with the spirit.

Kathy D. Hey
Kathy D. Hey

Kathy D. Hey writes creative non-fiction essays. A lifelong Chicagoan, she is enjoying life with her husband, daughter and three dogs in the wilds of Edgewater. When she isn’t at her computer, she is in her garden growing vegetables and herbs for kitchen witchery.

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