Gullah Paintings Brought to Life: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green in Off the Wall and Onto the Stage

Charleston Moms Blog is honored to partner with the South Carolina Ballet to bring our readers the following post.

The South Carolina Ballet is gearing up to bring back their one of a kind ballet – Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green. Deemed “fabulous…an ingenious idea…striking” by the New York Times, Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green brings Green’s Gullah inspired paintings to life through creative choreography and innovative sets. Artistic and Executive director, William Starrett, has created this exceptional performance performing for one night only on March 3, 2018 at the Sottile Theatre.

Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green first performed in 2005 after Starrett and Green met at the SC Art’s Commission’s Verner Awards ceremony. The two mutually admired each other’s work and worked together to collaborate and make still paintings come to life with dance.

Green received his professional art training at the Art Institute of Chicago and has created more than 1,700 works that capture South Carolina’s Gullah culture. Internationally known for his vibrantly colorful art depicting Gullah life in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Green has said “I wanted to go back to my roots…the older people were dying, and I began to see [the Gullahs] differently. I saw them as a people with a strong link, probably the strongest link with Africa of any of the black American people.” Because slaves had been torn forcibly away from Africa and were often denied access to their own history, the cultural traditions that they succeeded in passing on to future generations acquired special significance. The importance of nature, family, community, and especially spirituality, are the threads which the Gullah culture contribute to the tapestry of our modern-day lives. It is this harmonious union of cultural traditions and deep spirituality which William Starrett translates into the art of ballet in Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green.

Starrett has created vignettes from 22 of Green’s paintings and explores the themes of family, faith, hope and love. He incorporates Green’s rich, vibrant colors onto the stage through eye-popping backdrops and scrims, multi-media components, over 150 hand sewn costumes, an array of music that combines traditional work songs, gospel music, Motown, classical, jazz and live singers. The choreography brings it all together as the company’s dancers depict the cultural heritage of the Gullah and Geechee communities depicted in Green’s paintings.

The production will also feature the return of South Carolina actress and gospel singer Marlena Smalls, who will reprise the role of Bessie Mae, personifying the character from the Jonathan Green painting of the same name and will sing live when the painting of “Silver Slipper Dance Hall” comes to life. Smalls, best known for her role as Bubba’s Mama in the Academy Award-winning film Forrest Gump, is the founder of The Hallelujah Singers. She will also sing her original hit song “Carry Me Home”.

Come see Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green on March 3, 2018 at the Sottile Theatre. Tickets range from $25-$45 each and are available online or by calling Ovation Tickets at 1.866.811.4111. For discounts available for churches or congregations, call the Ballet Office at 803-799-7605 for more information.