Tracing Sacred Steps

Tracing Sacred Steps

Deneane Richburg, Artistic Director & Choreographer

This ensemble work is influenced by Ring Shout but is not an authentic recreation of a Ring Shout. Within an on ice modern dance framework, it engages elements of this sacred practice to illustrate how it continues to serve as a pathway to release and restoration within so many sacred Black spaces. Its intent is twofold: 1) to illustrate how this sacred practice continues to be relevant 2) to honor and pay homage not only to these important cultural and spiritual rituals, but also its practitioners: forcibly displaced Africans that found a way to work towards restoration and wholeness when the way had been stripped, stolen, and beaten out and from them. To these courageous spirits I/we owe so much.


Hoodoo Religion and American DanceTraditions: Rethinking the Ring Shout

by Katrina Hazzard-Donald

“It was from the African sacred circle, that the first truly African American dance was born: the ‘Ring Shout.’ The Ring Shout was a counter-clockwise, sacred circle dance that appears to have been done universally among [enslaved Africans] and later among freedmen. “The Shout,” as it was known, used subdued stepping and hopping footwork performed with a system of gesture, spirit possession, individualized sacred dancing and specific music, particularly vocal shouting […] In the sacred circle, the center was a vortex of spiritual energy and power which represented a separate and sacred realm, one not of the material realities of enslavement. It represented a reality which connected one to the ancestors and reconfirmed a continuity through both time and space. Within the circle, the interaction between the individual and the community was mediated by spiritual forces evidenced in spirit possession.”


Corley Lovett Jr. was a skater with Skating Club Of New York and a dancer with Westchester Ballet Company and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, also in New York. Lovett has performed in Off-Broadway productions of shows such as West Side Story, Cats, How to Succeed in Business, and Hairspray. He previously trained with the Bolshoi Ballet and has choreographed works on Alvin Ailey School and School of American Ballet (New York City Ballet) students, as well as other ballet schools.

Mariyah Thurston Gerber is from Moreno Valley, CA, and has been skating for 21 years. She is a former USFSA Junior Ladies competitor and Disney on Ice per-former, portraying Princess Tiana for 6 years when she met her husband and skating partner, Peter. She skated for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for 2 years as an adagio pair skater and has most recently worked for Holiday on Ice as their Principal Pair team. Thurston Gerber has an Associate Degree in Communication. She enjoys scary movies, planning parties, and LOVES traveling! “I’ve been ‘on the road’ for 8 years this June, and I still love performing just as much as I did when I started at the age of 17!”

LaJuneì McMillian is a new media artist and creative technologist creating art that integrates performance, virtual reality, and physical computing to ques-tion our current forms of communication. McMillian has had the opportunity to show and speak about their work at Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, Lead-ers in Software and Art, Creative Tech Week, and Art && Code’s Weird Reality. McMillian was previously the Director of Skating at Figure Skating in Harlem, where they integrated STEAM and Figure Skating to teach girls of color about movement and technology. McMillian will continue their research on Blackness, Movement, and Technology during residencies at Eyebeam, Barbarian Group, and Barnard College.

Steven Smith started skating at the age of ten. His love and dedication for the sport took him to compete at the national level six times while also earning two medals. Professional highlights include: touring the world skating for the most relevant companies in the business, working with many world famous, award winning choreographers in the skating and dance world, doing TV specials, per-forming in front of over 80,000 people in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and most importantly performing in the history-making all black figure skating show Ebony on Ice, a life-changing experience for Smith. Smith came out retirement two years ago to perform in his first Brownbody production, a journey of self-discovery that allowed him to open his mind, body, and soul to experience skating in a way he had never experienced before.

Thomasina Petrus is a 25-year equity actor and professional jazz vocalist, a company member at Penumbra Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, and Park Square Theatre, and has performed with the Twin Cities most beloved artists. Mentors and friends, James “Cornbread” Harris, Sr., Javetta Steele, T. Mycheal Rambo, Stokley, Walter Chancellor, Austene Cleopatra Van, and Prince, have encouraged her to continue creating exceptional music and theatre by launching Thomasina Production. Highlights include: Lady Day @ Emerson’s Bar & Grill by Lanie Robertson, Etta James… Dreams to Remember, Hot Chocolate Holiday musical series, and the 5-women a cappella ensemble “The Sound Effects,” HOLD a play on incar-cerated women thru music and poetry, and Five Points by Harrison David Rivers. Petrus is a 2015/2016 Playwright Center McKnight Theatre Arts Fellow. A suc-cessful departure from performing, Petrus has also created Thomasina’s Cashew Brittle. Her delicious melt-in-your-mouth Cashew Brittle and new Apple Brittle, have been featured at the MN State Fair and US Bank Stadium, and online. Visit &

Deneane Richburg is the founder and Artistic Director of Brownbody. Richburg received her MFA in dance and choreography from Temple University in 2007, an MA in Afro-American Studies from UW Madison, and a BA in English and African American Studies from Carleton College. Working with Lela Aisha Jones, Richburg was also the Co-founder of The Requisite Movers, a Philadelphia based program that supports the work of Black female choreographers. Deneane has danced for a number of artists including, Chris Walker, Jose Francisco Barroso, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, Lela Aisha Jones and has performed with Off Leash Area, Flyground, and Kariamu and Company. Richburg is a grateful recipient of a 2017 McKnight Choreography Fellowship, administered by the Cowles Center, funded by The McKnight Foundation, a 2019 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, and a Dance/USA Fellowship to Artists made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

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