Pearl Primus leaped into the dance scene in 1943 with stunning dances that incorporated social and racial protest.
In this film premiere, director Stan Sherer and his collaborators, Primus’s biographers Peggy and Murray Schwartz, offer an intimate perspective on her life and explore her influences on dance and culture in the United States and in Europe, Israel, the Caribbean, Africa, and beyond.
The film features photos and rare footage of Primus dancing and teaching throughout the world: on an African field, at Paul Robeson’s 40th birthday party, working with the Watusi dancers of Rwanda, and in performance. Primus is celebrated for introducing a repertory of African dances in the United States. Primus brilliantly transposed to the concert stage, modern dance/protest pieces as well as African rituals, including her signature piece Fanga and her husband Percival Borde dancing Impinyuza. Renowned drummers Alphonse Cimber, John (“Tunisi”) Davis and Onwin Borde, also make an appearance, and clips of the Schwartzes’ interviews with Joe Nash, Donald Washington, and Mary Waithe.
This film premiere includes live performance of Michael Row Your Boat performed by Something Positive Dance Company, a Brooklyn-based African Caribbean performing arts organization dedicated to the art and culture of the African Diaspora, directed by Michael Manswell. This program features 10 dancers, and singers and musicians. Michael Row Your Boat was Primus’ response to the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing. The panel includes Paul Dennis (moderator), Peggy Schwartz, Murray Schwartz, Stan Sherer, Mary Waithe, and Michael Manswell.