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She Wants to Heal the World Through Second Line

by Jersey Lady

Most places people watch parades and march. In New Orleans, you have another option, the second line.

“Second line” as a noun refers to people following a brass band through the streets during Mardi Gras, or on certain Sundays, or on their way back from a cemetery at a jazz funeral. Fun music to dance to. The second line is not official or planned. It grows and all ages roll in with handkerchiefs and umbrellas, turning the parade into a traveling party.

As an adjective, “second line” can describe the distinctive beat, the Afro-Caribbean rhythm that runs through New Orleans music, and from there spreads to the rest of the world’s jazz, R&B, and funk.

“Second line” is also a verb.To The second line is to dance. There is no set procedure. Everyone does things a little differently. However, most practitioners agree with him on one point. that is not taught in class.

“You fall into it,” Michelle N. Gibson, a choreographer and educator who grew up in New Orleans, described in a recent interview. “No one teaches the second line.”

Except Gibson teaches it, or she takes it on. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival July 29-30 in BerkshireFor the past few years she has also offered second line classes. A workshop called New Orleans Original BuckShop Introducing what she calls “second-line aesthetics.”

Gibson, 47, has become a cultural ambassador for his hometown. Melanie George, associate curator at Jacob’s Pillow, said, “She not only taps into New Orleans’ collective ‘come, come’ ethos, but also embraces her spiritual traditions and commitment to her ancestors.” can hold

In Gibson’s workshop, she begins by helping students find second line beats in the body, bounces in the feet, hips, shoulders, and head. The strut transitions into a skip as the dance requires ground coverage. She calls herself “sassy and sassy” and describes herself as “Mz.G”, an encouraging and enabling coach. Her most frequent and regular instruction is “play with it”.

“‘Play with it’ means playing with your inner rhythm,” she explained in an interview. “That’s who you really are, because everyone got their own different testimony.

Her testimony is that of the preacher’s daughter. Her father, BA Gibson, was an elder and pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.For most of her childhood he was a pastor St. Peter AME Churchone of the oldest black congregations in uptown New Orleans.

Gibson’s father did not allow her to participate in the second line. rice field. (As a teenager, she would sometimes smugly say her second line.)

Not far from the church she received another education. New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, she specialized in dancing. (Other center alumni include John Batiste, Harry Connick Jr., and the Marsalis brothers.) After high school, she spent her summer training at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City. , when she booked a job touring with Hip Hop Group Arrested Development, her mother disapproved and called her back home.

Next came, in her words, “struggle, brawl.” The marriage soon ended in divorce. While taking care of her young daughter, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance from Tulane University and performed with her company in various types of local dance, including Brazilian, West African and contemporary. “I had a structured training,” she said.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Gibson had just given birth to her son and left the hospital. She took refuge with her children. Then she finds out that her New Orleans apartment is unlivable. She moved to Dallas, where she still lives, where she currently teaches at Southern University.

After some time, she earned a master’s degree in dance and performance studies through the Hollins College American Dance Festival Graduate Program at Duke University. Surrounded by her successful mid-career dancers, she considered what she had to contribute. She settled on growing up as a dancer in New Orleans. Especially after leaving her hometown, she wanted to delve deeper into the culture.

The result was the first incarnation of “Takin’ It to the Roots,” which she describes as “spicy-ass gumbo,” by a brass band, African drummers and dancers from the company of DanceAfrica founder Chuck Davis. . “I made sure I took it all in,” she says, pointing to second-line roots (and thus her own roots) in Senegambia, Congo and Haiti.

Her interest in history continues in a one-woman version of the show she developed at New Orleans’ South Dallas Cultural Center and Ashe Cultural Arts Center. And it comes through from her second-line perspective.

“If you look at the second line,” she said. She talked about Congo her Square. Congo Square is the place in New Orleans where enslaved people were allowed to drum and dance in the early 19th century, and where African traditions were woven and maintained. She talked about charities, social aid clubs and pleasure clubs that sponsor Jazz’s funeral and Second Her Line her parade. She talked about trauma, about Katrina, about people who had to leave, and about those who still stayed in the city in turmoil.

“That’s what you see in the footwork and the propulsion of the body,” she said. “You’re looking at their story.”

Gibson says that what she teaches is not the second line that New Orleans natives like herself experience, but her own second line aesthetic “based on my training and the way I want to share it.” I have carefully stated one thing. “You can’t expect it,” she said. “You have to live it.” He says he sees it, participates in conversations about New Orleans culture, and claims “respect for its origins and the people to whom it really belongs.”

For Jacob’s Pillow’s performance, Gibson transformed “Takin’ It to the Roots”, originally designed for the theater, into matrix form. Audiences follow her to sites around campus representing her square in the Congo and black churches. However, her second line at the end of the performance is standard. “I always take people out of the theater and out onto the street,” she said. “There’s no show you’re in with her Mz. G that we’re not going to be out in the end.

Of course, NOJO 7, a brass band selected from the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, will also participate. Its artistic director, drummer Adonis Rhodes, said he considered Gibson most distinctive as a teacher. About the second line. He added that her class ties in with his own mission to “export our culture to people who might not otherwise experience it.”

But Rose also emphasized the “spiritual experience” that followed Gibson as he led the brass band’s march as Grand Marshal. This is another of her roles that she takes seriously. Before accepting her invitation, she asked permission from the first female General Admiral she had met. Wanda Rozan“It’s a vocation and an anointing,” said Gibson. “I grew up understanding that there is a Supreme Being. That’s why I strut like I strut.”

“This is no dance to me anymore,” she continued, taking the preacher’s tune. “My practice is more motivated by mental unity, harmony, rolling in the same rhythm together and moving forward. That’s what the world needs. I want to heal the world. let me

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