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  • Reverend James Squire

Greatness




I have written extensively in my blog about how to achieve greatness. Malcolm Gladwell, thought leader, says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice. I think that may be necessary for greatness, but it must be matched with doing something that few others can do and have the grit to keep your vision alive usually against all odds. Caitlin Collins has been mentioned as someone who has achieved greatness in the world of sports. I submit to you as well Meredith Rainey, a member of our family, whose world premiere of a ballet he choreographed, Where They Meet, will be performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC this week. The Center is regarded as an “artistic mecca” and one of the world’s most respected venues.

 

About Meredith Rainey

 

At the age of 15, Meredith Rainey, a young African American teenager residing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, alongside his single mother, sister, and occasionally his brothers, witnessed his close friend rehearse a solo for an audition at the Dillard School of the Performing Arts. Despite lacking knowledge about dance, he offered a suggestion after her performance, marking his first foray into choreography. Encouraged by his friend and guidance counselor, he subsequently applied to the Dillard School of the Performing Arts, immersing himself in ballet, Graham technique, jazz, and other mandatory courses. This marked the beginning of a transformative journey where every class presented a new and invigorating challenge, with ballet emerging as his primary passion due to its rigor, discipline, and dedication to improvement.

 

Over the following years, Meredith dedicated himself to dance, supplementing his education with additional classes under Brenda Gooden, a former Pittsburgh Ballet dancer. Upon graduating from high school, he auditioned for and joined the Fort Lauderdale Ballet, where he rapidly adjusted to the demands of the profession, solidifying his position within the company through his innate ability to absorb choreography, technique, and corrections.

Despite the unpaid nature of his position, he seized opportunities for growth, securing a full scholarship for the Milwaukee Ballet summer program after auditioning for various professional companies. This marked a period of significant personal and artistic development, during which he embraced his identity as an artist, performer, and gay man. His talent and dedication were soon recognized, leading to an invitation to join the Milwaukee Ballet as a trainee, subsequently transitioning to an apprentice role and becoming the first African American dancer in the company’s history.

Meredith’s career continued to flourish as he joined the Pennsylvania-Milwaukee Ballet and later the Pennsylvania Ballet now known as the Philadelphia Ballet, where he remained for the majority of his performing years. Notable highlights include performances with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, as well as a guest appearance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Throughout his career, he had the privilege of working with esteemed choreographers and originating roles in numerous productions, each experience contributing to his growth as a performer, creator, and educator. Additionally, he played a pivotal role as a founding dancer with Ballet X while simultaneously performing with the Philadelphia Ballet.

Upon retiring from the Philadelphia Ballet, Meredith embarked on a new chapter, delving into choreography, and finding his voice outside the classical ballet world. He participated in workshops and mentoring programs, honing his skills as a choreographer, and eventually establishing himself as a sought-after creator. His commissioned works have been performed internationally, and he has also dedicated himself to teaching at various institutions, sharing his knowledge and passion with the next generation of dancers.

Driven by a desire to create a more inclusive and innovative dance environment, he founded Carbon Dance Theatre, a venture that provided him with valuable lessons in leadership, resilience, and purpose. While ultimately deciding to close the company to focus on artistic projects and teaching, his contributions to the dance community have been recognized through numerous awards and honors, underscoring his enduring impact on the field.

Reflecting on his journey, Meredith acknowledges the profound role that dance has played in shaping his life, from humble beginnings to remarkable achievements. Through perseverance, passion, and a commitment to his craft, he has transcended barriers and realized his dreams, finding fulfillment and purpose in the transformative power of movement.

Meredith Rainey was chosen as one of the choreographers presenting world premier works at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. On July 2 and 3.

About Pathways To Performance: Reframing the Narrative at the Kennedy Center

In a continuation of the Kennedy Center’s commitment to acknowledging the vast spectrum of contributors to the field of ballet, curator Theresa Ruth Howard (founder of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet) returns to the Center with her most recent endeavor, the Pathways to Performance Choreographic Program, for a two-performance engagement in the Eisenhower Theater, July 2-3.

The Center’s successful 2022 Reframing the Narrative celebration—a recognition of the historical and continuing contributions of Black ballet dancers—sparked meaningful conversations with both audiences, artists, and the Center. Now the conversation looks towards how to shape the future. Designed to cultivate and mentor Black choreographers working in the ballet idiom, the Pathways to Performance Choreographic program, piloted at the MoBBallet Symposium in Miami in August 2022, provides concrete opportunities for the creation and presentation of new works. Pathways’ mission also aligns with that of the Center’s in the shared commitment to reframe the narrative of those marginalized within the industry and provide opportunities and platforms for their voices and work.

“MoBBallet’s work addresses the Ballet ecosystem in its entirety.” said curator Theresa Ruth Howard. “Pathways to Performance is a choreographic exercise to assure that 10 years from now the representation of Black choreographic work in ballet repertory is not siloed in the contemporary/mixed bill category but will have equal representation in the classical/neo-classical space as well. To assure that we will have Black choreographers who can craft full-length classical ballets that stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ratmanskys and Wheeldons, we must provide the same level of support and commitment to their development. For MoBBallet, this is our contribution to that endeavor.”

Performances will feature newly commissioned and world premiere ballets by Jennifer ArchibaldKiyon Ross, and Pathways to Performance Fellow and MoBBallet Symposium alum Meredith Rainey, along with works by Black choreographers that showcase the progress of Pathways. Titled HOME, the Kennedy Center commissioned work by award-winning choreographer Jennifer Archibald, will include the classical contemporary music of Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon and the new sonic territories of House and Deep Funk sound of Johnny Dangerous. With an emphasis on inner peace, dancers seek the transformative power of self-expression and self-acceptance. The work, which will be created during a two-week creative process through the Center’s Social Impact Office Hours Residency program at the REACH, also resonates with Archibald’s goal of inspiring audiences to reflect on their understanding of freedom and identity. The cast includes both returning dancers from Reframing the Narrative and new dancers: Katlyn Addison (Ballet West); Joshua BoddenCorey Bourbonniere (Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre); Leiland Charles (BalletMet); Ashton Edwards (Pacific Northwest Ballet); Whitney Huell (Kansas City Ballet); Zsilas Hughes (Pacific Northwest Ballet); Ashley Murphy-Wilson (The Washington Ballet); Jonathan Philbert (New Jersey Ballet); Princess ReidMiranda Silveira (London City Ballet); and Raquel Smith (Collage Dance Collective); and Victoria Watford (BalletMet).

Recently created during a Pillow Lab Residency at Jacob’s Pillow, Meredith Rainey’s Where They Meet, is set to three pieces by composer Michael Nyman for String Quartet and Solo Violin. A Kennedy Center-commissioned work by Kiyon Ross features a classical pas de deux danced by Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, Ashton Edwards and Zsilas Michael Hughes. The program will also include the first fully staged performances of Pathways Fellow and MoBBallet Symposium alum Portia Adams’ Faintly Seen. Set to music by Sufjan Stevens and a track by Montreal-based electronic dance music artist Anomalie, the work was originally commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s school and set on its students. Rounding out the program is a restaging of Donald Byrd’s From Other Suns, which was commissioned by the Kennedy Center in June 2022 as part of Reframing the Narrative.

And, in conjunction with the engagement, Howard’s MoBBallet will hold a two-and-a-half-day dance writers’ convening at the REACH, June 30–July 2, to discuss and examine the role, responsibilities, and relevance of the dance writer in the evolving ecosystem of the journalistic field. Curated and facilitated by Howard, a journalist herself, the first-of-its-kind gathering aims to collaboratively reimagine the role of the writer in keeping the ecosystem of dance robust and healthy. MoBBallet Dance Writers Convening is supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Ford Foundation.


 

 

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