Jazz composer and musician Wayne Wallace and Bay Area African American choreographers Laura Elaine Ellis, Aisha Jenkins, Robert Henry Johnson, and Robert Moses collaborated with ODC/Theater to create Quilt, an original evening-length work. Quilt comprised three main dance sections woven together by Wallace’s music, and a movement-based narrative presented by a character depicting a Griot (Robert Henry Johnson) with additional text by spoken word poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Wallace’s ten-piece orchestra accompanied the piece live. Quilt was co-sponsored by the Committee for Black Performing Arts at Stanford University and premiered at ODC/Theater.
The artists were inspired by African America quilt maker and artist Faith Ringgold’s “They Came to America,” a piece she created in response to James Baldwin’s landmark book The Fire Next Time in which Baldwin stated emphatically that unless the endemic racism in this country is overcome, the United States will destroy itself.
Each of the choreographers created a section of the work. Although the parts of the piece were divided among them, their process emphasized the group’s collective effort and all three sections were set on a single ensemble of dancers. Choreopoems by Johnson, spoken word by Joseph, and Wallace’s musical composition wove the work together.
A San Francisco native, Wayne Wallace has established a strong reputation as a jazz trombonist, composer, solo artist, and educator. His album Three in One received nationwide critical acclaim. He also serves as the co-musical director with John Santos for the Machete Ensemble and has performed with Ray Charles, The Count Basie Orchestra, Diane Carroll, Natalie Cole, and many others. ODC/Theater is an arts presenter that values cultural exchange, programming innovation, and community building.