Lloyd Knight to inspire and entertain at UNC Charlotte

When he was a middle-school student, Lloyd Knight made a deal that he called “my dad’s tradeoff.” His father told him, “If you’re going to dance, you’re going to do karate.” For a while, he took karate at night. But dance won.

At 30, Knight – with the support of his family — is in his eighth season with the New York-based Martha Graham Dance Company, a soloist who has performed starring roles in iconic works such as “Appalachian Spring.” On Sept. 28, as part of the UNC Charlotte Department of Dance’s annual Faculty Concert, Knight and fellow Graham company member Lorenzo Pagano will dance “Traces,” part of a larger work in progress choreographed by Kim Jones, assistant professor of dance at the university. It will be a reunion of sorts — Jones was a dancer with Graham’s company.

Charlotte’s African American community ‘Steps Up’ for young dancers

What started as a challenge for Jordan Leeper became an opportunity for Kobi Kennedy Brinson and the North Carolina Dance Theatre. The promising young dancer was coming to the end of the first year of his apprenticeship and running out of resources. Leeper’s parents, in his hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., had already helped out as much as they could, adding to the scholarship he earned to train in San Francisco, where he completed his senior year of high school, before he auditioned for North Carolina Dance Theatre (NCDT).

That’s when president and artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux talked with Brinson, who had become an active fan and friend to the company. “Surely this community can support this dancer,” she remembered saying to him. “We can’t afford to lose African American dancers because of money.” The assistance Leeper received filled the gap until he was offered a place in the company.

Luckily it didn’t end there.

‘The Whipping Man’ sheds new light on slavery in America

In the program for “The Whipping Man” — a play that runs at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte through March 9 — a guide translates phrases from Hebrew and defines Civil War-era terms. So, what’s going on? The work grew from the discovery by playwright and Civil War buff Matthew Lopez of a historical document that mentioned Passover beginning just after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Through the story of two former slaves and their former master sharing Passover Seder while discovering the meaning of family, the Actor’s Theatre production lets audiences take a journey through a seldom explored aspect of the Civil War.

“It’s emotionally difficult but uplifting at the same time,” said director Chip Decker.

Gantt Center explores music, message of Fela

If you attend the award-winning musical “Fela!” during its Feb. 25 and 26 run at the Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the play’s infectious music and dancing will be more than enough to satisfy. But to add meaning to the music, you need to know something about artist and activist Fela Kuti, the subject of the high-energy show.

“Fela: From Abeokuta to Broadway — a Panel Discussion” at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture on Feb. 15, will explore the man behind the musical, a figure whose Afrobeat rhythms carried a message about the quest for social justice in his Nigerian home that resonated across the globe. “My generation lived on his music,” said Dr. Akin Ogundiran, chair of the Africana Studies Department at UNC Charlotte. “You can listen to it and dance, but when you really pay attention you don’t want to dance, you want to listen to the words. When it’s finished, you are either angry or you are sober.”

For Beverly McIver, art is life — and the other way around

The subject of an HBO film and a Charlotte exhibition at the Mint Museum Uptown — which closes Jan. 6 — McIver opens up about her work, family and more.