This “Musicians as Activists” panel will feature tap dancer and choreographer Michela Marino Lerman and Love Movement’s music director Russell Hall. Lerman and Hall are two of the founding members of The Blacksmiths, a coalition of artist-activists that formed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to use the arts to support direct action and civic engagement in service of Black liberation and equity.
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This “Musicians as Activists” panel will feature tap dancer and choreographer Michela Marino Lerman and Love Movement’s music director Russell Hall. Lerman and Hall are two of the founding members of The Blacksmiths, a coalition of artist-activists that formed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to use the arts to support direct action and civic engagement in service of Black liberation and equity. Together with moderator Niama Safia Sandy—a founding member of The Blacksmiths—Lerman and Hall will share their experiences as artist-activists within the Black Lives Matter movement and discuss the critical role artists play in social justice movements around the world.
This project is made possible in part by the ArtsForward grant program of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, made possible through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Michela Marino Lerman Bio
Michela Marino Lerman, winner of the 2019 Hoofer Award, is a globally sought after tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, band leader, educator and all-around creative spirit. The Huffington Post has called her a “hurricane of rhythm” and the NY Times has called her both a “prodigy” and has described her dancing as “flashes of brilliance.” Quincy Jones has said she is an “absolute tap dancing star who knows her roots.” She was proudly mentored by some of the masters of tap dance including Gregory Hines, Buster Brown, Leroy Myers, Peg Leg Bates, Marion Coles and Mable Lee.
Most recently Michela can be seen featured in the new US Postage Stamp series dedicated to the art form of Tap Dance. She recently was commissioned by the Joyce Theater to create and premiere her all new full length work “Once Upon A Time Called Now” in the spring of 2022. Additional performance highlights include Newport Jazz festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Marciac Jazz Festival, Joes Pub, Little Island, opening night of The Shed at the Hudson Yards, The Other Palace on London's West End, and co-producing the documentary American Tap.
Love Movement, Lerman’s music project, is a hybrid of the highest levels of musicianship and hoofing. With original music, spirituals, jazz, traditional and electronic tap boards, Love Movement reflects a journey through the seven levels of love we experience throughout life. An immersive music experience, this work uplifts and empowers audiences and has been presented in venues including The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Michela has had the honor of working with many masters throughout her career some of whom include Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Anna Deavere Smith, Jon Batiste, Quincy Jones, Steve McQueen and many more. With a teaching career that was sparked by a master class she gave at age 15, Lerman has since taught in more than 15 countries, 30 tap and dance festivals, and numerous universities including Yale and Tulane. Sharing the rich history of tap dance through education is deeply rooted in all her work.
Lerman lives in New York City.
Russell Hall bio
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Russell Hall began his journey as an actor from the tender age of 3. Performing in Jamaican adaptations of popular musicals to serious prose, he was destined to take the stage. Everything changed when he migrated to the United States in 2007. Under the tutelage of The Commodores, he discovered the bridge between the world of drama and the world of music. He progressed quickly from the electric bass to the double bass through the rigorous programs of The Dillard Center for the Arts and The Juilliard School. Now, he is revered as one of the most in demand artist in New York City, performing with some of the biggest names in music, dance and film. His work is featured on the Grammy nominated album “My Favorite Things” by Joey Alexander, “Motherless Brooklyn”, a film by Edward Norton which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Score, and HBO’s “Masterclass Series” which feature Wynton Marsalis as a master teacher which was nominated for an Emmy. Russell’s own work has been acknowledged with prestige in some of the most renowned venues and festivals around the world such as The Appel Room, The St. Lucia Jazz Festival, The Apollo, The Marciac Jazz Festival and many more. His most recent album, “The Feeling Of Romance”, is available on all platforms.
Niama Safia Sandy
Niama Safia Sandy is a New York-based curator, producer, multidisciplinary artist and educator. Her work delves into the human story, often with stories of the Global Black diaspora at its center.
Niama has produced resources and public events aimed at empowerment and showcasing Black artists of all disciplines, curators, and administrators on the global stage. In 2020, Sandy created FOR/FOUR, a conversation series featuring Black women and non-binary persons in the arts and culture sector.
Niama has spoken and convened events at TEDWomen, Schomburg Center, MACAAL, MICA, World Around Summit, Harvard University, Oberlin College, RISD, UNTITLED & more. She has completed commissioned writing on artists including Milford Graves, Dindga McCannon, Nate Lewis and others. Past artist residencies include The Watermill Center and Project for Empty Space. Sandy is a co-founder of The Blacksmiths and an active member of the artist collectives Resistance Revival Chorus and the Wide Awakes.
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