Hello all, and happy June! 2023 is marching on by, and I wish it would slow down..
This week I'm here to tell you about an artist whose dancing will captivate you. And if you watch it knowing anything about his personal story, you'll be hit even more by its significance and meaning.
Melvin A.C. Howell is a 100% self-made hip-hop/street dancer. He had inspirations, yes, and models that he looked to, but he taught himself to dance, to move, to create and perform. And not just technique and incredible skill-- once he discovered the power of that technique, he committed to using what audiences might see as a superficial-- yet astonishing-- feat of the human body to unlock perceptions and awaken senses. He's making big, bold statements about who we are and and asking hard questions about the hows and whys of living in this world.
Sounds deep, and I have to say that to me, it is. I first met Melvin when he danced to a piece of my writing. He performed a solo to my essay, "Why I Dance" as part of Stewart/Owen Dance's 2020 production, "Still: Life." I'd never seen a body move like his, and to watch him improvise to my own words, to a recording of my own voice speaking them, moved me to tears. His body really IS his voice-- and for that moment, it was also mine.
Here are links to Melvin's Instagram, where you will (I hope!) spend some wonderful rabbit-hole time watching the many videos he posts. You'll also find, below, a link to his recent appearance on The Overlook, a podcast hosted by local arts and culture reporter Matt Peiken (Matt also interviewed me in 2021; link below as well.)
i won't tell Melvin's personal story here. I want you to hear it for yourself. But just know that it involved an early obsession with something he didn't know existed, and once he discovered it, sheer determination to follow his calling. There was a stint of homelessness during which he did not stop dancing, and now, success and recognition that he is using to elevate others, not just himself.
If you're in Western North Carolina, you can see him dance on June 16 and 17 at Trillium Arts in Mars Hill, NC, part of a Juneteenth celebration of Black arts and culture.
Enjoy watching this multi-faceted, extraordinary artist. (I forgot to mention he also rocks it on roller skates.)