Assistant Professor of Dance Ashley Tate traveled to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, this weekend as a key participant in the nationally recognized No Tears Project. This multidisciplinary festival was founded by Oxford American Magazine in 2017 to honor the civil rights history in its home city, Little Rock, Arkansas.
That year, Oxford American hired pianist Christopher Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt to compose a piece of music honoring the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock High School by Civil Rights Movement heroes, the Little Rock Nine. Now this project travels to different cities across the country to recognize and remember the civil rights stories and heroes in those cities through art, dialogue, and performance. During these residencies, local artists are contacted to participate in the project using their prospective talents.
The 2023 No Tears Project began with a "Social Change through the Arts" panel, held the first weekend of April. For that event, Tate joined original project musicians Parker and Hurt, the renowned jazz saxophonist.clarinetist Victor Goins, and singer/songwriter Brian Owens in a conversation led by poet, educator, and community arts organizer Treasure Shields Redmond that explored both the contemporary and historic roles of music and the arts as vehicles for addressing civil rights and inciting social change.
Presented with Jazz St. Louis, No Tears Project-St. Louis culminated in Community Concerts on April 28 and 29 at Gateway Arch Park. Tate performed her choreography, commissioned for the 75-minute concerts, which featured the world premieres of new works written by and in collaboration with St. Louis artists, as well as selections previously written by Parker and Hurt in honor of the Little Rock Nine.
“My dance partner and I provided movement accompaniment (using a fusion of dance styles) to six powerful poems that capture the emotional depth and haunting imagery associated with the fight against racial injustice,” Tate said. (See picture below.)
Tate added that she was pleased to be a part of the No Tears Project, as its purpose and mission directly align with her personal creative and research interests.
“I do believe that art has the power to engage people in dialogue and foster conversation surrounding some of the most complex sociopolitical issues in our world today. Dance has been used to advance social change throughout history and all over the world. My hope is that my contribution to this interdisciplinary project will evoke a visceral reaction in the audience that will lead to personal reflection and continued dialogue and investigation within their personal networks.”
Tate joined the dance department faculty in August 2022, coming to Charlotte from St. Louis, where she was founder, artistic director, and executive director of Ashleyliane Dance Company (ADC). ADC is a professional performance organization with a mission to cultivate diverse repertory, create safe educational spaces, and promote the intersection of dance and social issues. Her research interests include the use of dance as a vehicle for community advocacy and collaboration, as well as the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic benefits of hip-hop music and movement.
Tate has choreographed for the concert stage, NCAA/NFL basketball and football halftime shows, studio recitals, theatre productions, and national and regional dance competitions. She was a member of the Saint Louis Rams Football Cheerleaders, serving as a captain for two years.