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Peace Day Celebration 2021 gives voice to local artists

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

By: Ashley Gibson

The Peace Day Celebration 2021, presented by Can I Color Now Studios at Aatma Dance Studio

in Chamblee, featured work from an array of multidisciplinary artists on Saturday, September 18, several days prior to an important international holiday. The International Day of Peace, celebrated annually on September 21, is a day universally recognized by the United Nations as a day of ceasefire.

The diverse line-up featured 13 creatively crafted submissions ranging between music, poetry, dance, and film. The event offered both in-person tickets, which sold out ahead of time, and a virtual screening option. René Nesbit, founder of Can I Color Now Studios and director of Cherish Dance, hosted the event with elegance and inspiration, inviting audience members to find their own ways to celebrate this holiday.

Singer/songwriter Jordan Gonzalez opened the evening with a feel-good tune she wrote called “Talk to the Trees.” Accompanied by her ukulele, she sang lightheartedly about the significance of finding peace within the simplicity of nature. The lyrics to her song were soft and free-spirited, and they made a broad call to commune with and enjoy nature.

The highlight of the evening was Peace, Love, & Dance Project’s “Tokoliana,” choreographed by the project’s creator, Indya Childs. This work recently premiered as part of Dance Canvas’ performance at Atlanta Contemporary the weekend prior.

Six dancers entered the space in vibrant yellow, green, and orange tribal print racerback tops paired with black biker shorts. As the dancers set up a small picnic-like area in the back, I felt as if I had just arrived at an intimate gathering with my closest friends. They spread a small red mat and lined it with flowers and glass bottles, basking the room in the warm glow of kindred spirits. Suddenly, the room felt more homey and close-knit. The six individuals assembled together in a small breathing circle, led by verbal cues from one another before dispersing to their respective starting places around the room.

The dancers gathered in a larger circle as they moved in and out of the floor with smooth, lightning-fast momentum. They kicked one knee and then the other to meet their swinging arms. The dancers then playfully extended their arms to the sky in a cheerleader-esque manner while bouncing rhythmically to the beat. They each brought their arms down through their centers and then lifted them at their sides by their elbows. Once more, the dancers stretched their arms overhead, this time launching upward, tucking their knees and chins in with arms curling around from their sides.

“Tokoliana” sparked an electric energy throughout the crowd, the dancers, and the choreographers alike. Everyone in the room was suddenly united in precisely the way that I believe this peace day celebration intended. The crowd roared and raved, as these six dancers threw themselves wholeheartedly into Child’s distinctively vivacious choreography. A celebratory party vibe filled the room, aided by the energetic music and bright mix of African and contemporary movement.

Local dance companies, Gwinnett Dance Project (GDP) and Cherish Dance, presented works previously enjoyed by audiences at the Spring for Spring Dance Festival this past June. GDP’s work, “Earth,” was bold and elemental. It featured six dancers adorned in black biker shorts and earthy green leotards with sleek, vertical mesh stripes that traced each dancer’s back. It had a grounded and primitive modern dance style with hints of glittering and lithe balletic inspiration.

In addition to their piece of repertoire, “River,” Cherish Dance also premiered a new work at the event. “Joyful” was a festive, energetic work filled with powerful, lyrically driven crescendos. Grimacing, a tight gripping of the chest, and weighted floorwork gave the impression of an internal struggle to rediscover joy in one’s life. Towards the end of the work, the contemporary choreography was briefly infused with a few tap elements, as Nesbit scuffed one foot through and crossed the other foot behind to tap the top of her toes with playful, loose ankles.

Frank Nesbit played acoustic guitar for a memorable rendition of Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something.” He was joined by an ensemble formed by some of the Cherish Dance members, who creatively intertwined spoken-word poetry into the song. Both the poetry and the song arrangement, under the creative direction of René Nesbit, created a lively and empowering performance filled with raw emotion.

Other artists featured in this show included Christina Venditti, Loren McFalls, M.D Roberts Dance, Hannah Moulder, Jenny Nichols, Kimberly Sandoval, and Hank Gonzalez. The livestreaming was made possible by the help of McFalls and Tyler Knapp.

All in all, the event was a success and seemed well-received by audience members. It was a short event, lasting a little over an hour, and raised $405 for the non-profit organization, Peach One Day through a combination of virtual and in-person ticket sales. The celebration was able to raise awareness and spark unity through art due to the time and energy donated by each artist.

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