The CRayProject is more than a joint dance venture it is a powerful movement! The artistic directors Chatiera “Cookie” Ray and LaRonica “Ronnie” Southerland are two women on a mission to change how Black and Brown dance creatives are supported and understood. While Long Beach is their central focus, these pioneers have a far reach that extends throughout the United States and other nations, which was demonstrated in their latest production the first Long Beach Black Dance Festival (LBBDF). This collaboration created a platform for blossoming and seasoned dancers and choreographers alike to testify to the esteem power of the human spirit and intensify and highlight the need for movement during this unprecedented time.

The LBBDF was held the week of August 9th through the 16th and all events were outside in three locations in Long Beach, The Long Beach Playhouse, Valparaiso Plaza, and Rose Park. The entire festival was virtual, live, and free. Dance classes and workshops took place throughout the entire week from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm and the CRayProject plus other artists premiered their choreographic works at 5:00 pm during the concert portion of the festival. The concerts ran Friday through Sunday and at least twenty dance pieces were showcased. One of the opening sections of the festival was entitled “COVID CAN’T STOP MY BAG” and this idea or theme could be seen throughout the entire event. Dancers performed through glitches in Zoom and with the heat of the sun beating down on Marley floor. Nothing was going to stop this show, and what better time to have a production that was unstoppable especially during COVID. These pioneers saw the great need to bring dance to uplift the community of Long Beach and they answered the call.

The following interview of the CRayProject was conducted by Kim Gadlin of LADC.

Learn more about the CRayProject’s Long Beach Black Dance Festival by clicking HERE.

Written by Kim Gadlin for LA Dance Chronicle. Video editing by Roger Martin Holman.

Featured image: CRayProject in “God Is a Woman” – Photo by Irie Vision