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Dancers rehearse for the "Same Story" Different Countries project in the University of Delaware's Mechanical Hall Gallery.
When the University of Delaware’s
Lynnette Overby decided that her newest arts-based project would examine
past and present racial issues in the U.S. and South Africa, she took
the term “multidisciplinary” to heart.
The developing project, “Same Story” Different Countries, now encompasses literary and historical research, visual arts, music, poetry and dance. Participants include student and faculty researchers and performers,
composers, choreographers, dancers, musicians, painters and poets – in
locations spanning the globe from the UD campus to Wilmington and Dover
in Delaware, to North Carolina and South Africa.
By the time the project culminates with several public performances
in March, it will have engaged audiences in schools, community centers,
art galleries and concert halls, reaching out to communities whose
residents aren’t typically thought of as producers or consumers of the
“The project explores themes of oppression, resistance and liberation
that are common in the history of the United States and South Africa,”
said Overby, who is professor of theatre and director of the ArtsBridge
Scholars Program at UD, as well as a dancer and choreographer.
“We looked at issues in U.S. history, such as slavery and Jim Crow
laws, and asked how they relate to South Africa’s history of apartheid.
These are historical issues, but they continue to bubble up today.”
The overall goal of the project, she said, is “to enable researchers,
artists and participants to transform, synthesize and illuminate global
racial issues in South Africa and the United States through an artistic
To that end, the production includes acts with such titles as “From
Oppression to Resilience (The Power of Faith)” and “From Oppression to
Resistance,” concluding with a theme of liberation and “The Power of
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Dancers rehearse for "Same Story" performances, which will explore themes of oppression, resistance and liberation in both the United States and South Africa.
Performances work to integrate historical events with dance and music appropriate to their time, Overby said.
For example, she said, a piece called “Four Little Girls” remembers
the children killed in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing,
exploring the tragedy in dance and poetry and ending with a gospel song.
Performers – including UD dance students as well as dancers from the
Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) and the modern dance company
Pieces of a Dream, both in Wilmington – are now in preparation for an
early February weekend of intense rehearsal.
South African participants
will come to Delaware for the March performances.
In addition to the production itself, the CCAC and Overby are
conducting a related research project seeking to build audiences for the
arts in Wilmington and to improve access to the arts for high-poverty,
A group of city residents will be selected to discuss the themes involved in “Same Story” Different Countries and take photos and collect narratives from other community members related to oppression, resilience and liberation.
These participants and those they interviewed will be invited to
attend the final performance on March 13 at the Baby Grand, where their
art, photos and stories will be displayed in the lobby.
Performances are scheduled as follows, with more details to be available later:
Participants in the project
The artistic directors of “Same Story” Different Countries are
Lynnette Overby and Colin Miller, the College of Arts and Sciences’
director for global arts and interim director for African studies.
Choreographers for the project are Overby and adjunct faculty member
A.T. Moffett from UD; Lela Aisha Jones of FlyGround in Philadelphia and
Ashley Sullivan Davis of Pieces of a Dream in Wilmington, both community
performance groups; Tumi Nkomo of South Africa; Lisa Wilson of the
University of Cape Town; Vincent Thomas of Towson University; and Teresa
Emmons of Dover High School.
The musical director is Ralph Russell of Pennsylvania, with composers
Xiang Gao, Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music at UD, and South
African drummer Kesivan Naidoo.
Original art has been created by South African artists Garth Erasmus,
who last spring was UD’s first international visiting artist in
This commissioned painting by South African artist Garth Erasmus shows the iconic baobab tree of the African savannah, which will be featured in the first act of "Same Story."
Performances will feature 21 dancers – undergraduate students from UD
as well as dancers with the Christian Cultural Arts Center and Pieces
of a Dream – and about 10 UD musicians.
Other key contributors working with the project are historians P.
Gabrielle Foreman, who is Ned B. Allen Professor of English and a
professor of Black American studies, and Elaine Salo, associate
professor of political science and international relations, both at UD;
poet Glenis Redmond of North Carolina; and Julie McGee, curator of
African American art for University Museums and associate professor of
Black American studies at UD.
Five UD undergraduates, termed “scholar-artists” by Overby, conducted
research beginning last summer on various aspects of U.S. and South
African racial history and issues. Kelsey Daniels examined education and
legal segregation in both nations, Dominique Oppenheimer studied
women’s activism, Nicodemus Williams focused on the impact of music on
apartheid and in the U.S. civil rights movement, Kaitlyn Naismyth
examined the role of religion in promoting resilience during
segregation, and Pernilla Lauren Mpasi studied mothers and resilience
during times of oppression.
Support for the project
Key community collaborators with the University have been the
Christina Cultural Arts Center and the modern dance company Pieces of a
Dream, both in Wilmington.
Financial support for the project has been provided by UD’s
Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, Arts Bridging Cultures,
College of Arts and Sciences and Master Players Concert Series and by
the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) and the University of Cape
The CCAC, in partnership with Overby, applied for and received a
$20,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to involve
teenagers and young adults in Wilmington in the project and enable them
to share their voices and experiences.
The Center for the Study of Diversity helped support one of the
scholar/artists. The other scholar/artist funding came from the
University's Undergraduate Research Program, the Institute for Global
Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences.