johnbrown workshop

Dean Moss, one of BAX’s first Artists In Residence (1995-98), with assistance from acclaimed visual artist Laylah Ali, is creating the multidisciplinary performance project johnbrown. The work meditates the legacy and radical compassion of John Brown, the 19th century white abolitionist and will premiere at The Kitchen in New York City, October 2014, marking the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment: America’s abolishment of slavery.

At BAX, Dean has worked with sixteen teenagers (ages 14-18) from throughout New York City seeking to develop the basis, for what will become the cross-generational dynamic for the project. This provided an incredible opportunity for teens to work directly with an acclaimed dance artist, to have impact on and perhaps even perform in the premiere of what is sure to be a rich and highly anticipated work. As a result of the three-day September workshop, select young people helped shape an essential element of johnbrown, and have contributed to it as performers, technical assistants, documentarians, commentators, and audience doppelgängers.

This project was made possible through generous project-specific capacity building funding from the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation.


First group movement warm up led by two participants.

Participants and Dean choreograph a group movement piece by appropriating
gestures exhibited during their introductions to one another.

Participants break into two groups – performers and audience – to observe each
other’s interpretations and presentations of the group movement piece.

Participants break into two groups – performers and audience – to observe each
other’s interpretations and presentations of the group movement piece.

This was such an amazing experience – the
way we told stories, used the space and
worked with new people in various ways
that are unique to the project.

Skyler Friedland
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts

Taking a break, Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond (Brooklyn Friends School) and
Odette Blaisdell (Bard High School).

Dean Moss shows and discusses clips of his past dance and choreography work with workshop participants.

Scene work continued using projection equipment with Dean Moss and
Julia Cumming (St. Ann’s High School).

Dean Moss working with workshop participants as they explore an exchange
between John Brown and Frederic Douglass, as written by Thomas Bradshaw
for the johnbrown project.

The johnbrown Workshop at Brooklyn Arts
Exchange with Dean Moss, was absolutely
incredible experience that I would have to
classify as unexplainable. You would have to
be there in order to understand and believe
the depth and amazing bond that a group
of inspiring teens and instructor can engineer.

Adonys Jimenez
Jonathan Levin High School
for Media & Communication

Gaia Doger (Frank Sinatra School of the Arts) and Ebony Kennedy (Brooklyn Latin High School) experiment with original johnbrown text written by playwright, Thomas Bradshaw.

On September 28, 2013, johnbrown workshop participants return to the
BAX Theater after a week’s hiatus for their third, and final, workshop
session with Dean Moss.

With her peer-audience standing around her, Sky Friedland (Frank Sinatra
School of the Arts) presents her original performance piece.

This workshop has opened my eyes to new
opportunities and allowed me to meet people
who are talented and passionate about their
art forms. To me, this workshop showed me
gateways into new and challenging arenas,
one’s that I couldn’t have ever thought of
trying before. It has been great to meet people
and most importantly, make memories!
Thank you BAX!!!

Gaia Doger
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts

Odette Blaisdell (Bard High School) and Matthew Grant (Edward
R. Murrow High School) observing peers perform.

Asked to prepare on impromptu performance, using any found objects
or equipment, Adonys Jimenez (Jonathan Levin High School for
Media & Communication) presents the story of his past week.

It was such a moving experience to see a
window into what is possible in this rare
opportunity when a highly sensitive
professional artist works with a group of
teens. It was also a privilege to see Dean
Moss at work and I am certainly looking
forward to seeing how this piece develops.

Amanda Guest
Student Art Program Coordinator

Arts Connection