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By Guest Writers Nia-Amina Minor and Akoiya Harris 

Nia-Amina Minor and Akoiya Harris are performers in Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS. Along with their own reflections, they interviewed choreographer dani tirrell and performer/choreographic assistant Majinn O’Neal to provide a look into the new piece premiering April 20th. 

Guest Writers, Nia-Amina Minor, image credit Devin Muñoz, and Akoiya Harris, image credit Victoria Kovios.

Our first rehearsal for Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS began with a practice that would ground us throughout the entire creation process. Before we do anything else as an ensemble, we gather in a circle to witness and affirm each other. This circle, the cipher, is as essential to dani tirrell’s work as a bible is to church. It is a sacred and historic ritual that is familiar to many of us in the cast as people of the diaspora and dancers from a range of styles. During these ciphers we are invited to practice holding space for each other and often the circle radiates a palpable energy full of laughter, sweat, and even tears of joy. These moments allow each of us to practice vulnerability, give up perfection, claim our right to speak, and be in the moment. Together we build a sanctuary of safety not always afforded to us in other spaces. 

To be in a rehearsal process with dani tirrell is to enter a vibrant creative space cultivated with a true ethic of care. As a collaborator, you feel held because community and connection are the primary concerns, creating a “dance” comes secondary. Truly collaborative processes can be difficult to create, but dani has an exceptional ability to foster compassion and fellowship. “It's an experience that a lot of people I don't believe get in the dance world,” said Majinn. “Whether that's from being acknowledged for adding to the work, being credited in the work, or again, just being met where you are that day.” 

Everyone who steps into one of dani’s processes is there for a purpose greater than their skills solely as a mover. dani makes the trust and respect for the cast evident and a huge part of that is being explicit about how and when collaboration will show up. As a large ensemble representing different backgrounds, gender expressions, and movement vocabularies, rather than asking us to fit a mold, we are highlighted for our strengths. 

Multi-gendered Black dancers move on a stage during rehearsal
Dancers in rehearsal for Leviticus and Love. Image credit John Curry

“The cast of this project consists of individuals whom I trust deeply. I have faith not only in their physical abilities but also in their intellect. They are all makers of dance and are unafraid to engage in conversations with me and hold me accountable for the work and process.” dani

Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS, is a world that evokes both the club and the sanctuary. Crafted by dani tirrell and The Congregation, a community of collaborative artists, the work explores the possibilities of spirituality that emerge from queer, trans, cis, and non-binary bodies. “I want to be clear about what this space is not.” said dani. “I don't want it to feel like a church or an attempt to emulate the function of a church. Rather, I envision it as a sanctuary where people can find solace, express their beliefs, and question things that don't sit well with them.” While the church is referenced, Leviticus is not trying to replicate it. It is not a sermon. It is not a rule book. It is a place where spirit can be found, however it may need to be. That could be through movement of the hips, the subtlety of rhythmic footwork, or witnessing a cast member in prayer. In this piece, spirit transcends the body and connects to a realm where Black joy is uninterrupted.

“I hope that people will reflect on what it means to sin against Black and Brown bodies and recognize that these bodies are divine and walk amongst us.” - dani

Originally inspired by the Book of Leviticus and the historic transgressions of religious institutions, dani explained that while developing the project a different calling emerged. “I did not want to create another work that only dealt with the pain and destruction of Black people'' recalled dani, who decided to focus the work on joy, Black dancing bodies, and prayer– an important shift as the Book of Leviticus is often used to promote hate and violence towards Queer communities. Yet, inside this work, all of us are welcome. “I want them (audiences and performers) to know that they can be part of the community and find a connection with their higher power, regardless of whether they attend religious ceremonies or not,” said dani.

Leviticus or Love transforms the stage into a sacred celebratory space. One way audiences and performers are transported is through the soundscape. There’s no church without the choir so music plays a huge role in grounding the performance. Keyes Wiley, a collaborator and DJ in the piece, traverses between spiritual and secular worlds with ease. As performers, we understand that the club can become a spiritual place because house, disco, and gospel all came from a Black desire to get the body free. 

 “..there's something about gospel that speaks to my healing, growth, and where I fall short. It helps me express gratitude for the beauty of my life. When it comes to prayer and working out my feelings, you can find me on the dance floor to house music. House music is my freedom, and its soundscape is designed to get people singing and dancing in the aisle and their seats.” - dani

If the body is a container for the spirit, then anywhere the spirit is fed becomes holy ground. With this in mind, Leviticus or Love becomes a place where the club meets the sanctuary and where Black folks can begin to suggest that they are indeed free. Witnessing this piece will remind the audience that they are divine and that transcendence is not an individual journey but a collective one. 

Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS runs April 20 & 21 at The Moore Theatre


Project Support 

Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS (Book I) is presented By Seattle Theatre Group; with support from NEFA ~ National Dance Project Grant and the Kennedy Center's Office Hours residency, as well as Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.

dani tirrell and The Congregation are raising $100k to support the work of Leviticus or Love and to walk amongst HUMANS 

Contributions are facilitated by Northwest Film Forum and can be made through multiple means:

  • Online through Paypal or Givebutter

  • By check, made out to Northwest Film Forum with ‘Leviticus’ written in the memo field. 

Checks can be sent to the following address:

Northwest Film Forum 1515 12th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122

Join dani tirrell and the Congregation by subscribing to their newsletter

A Black man sits on a blue velvet sofa in a silk leopard print robe, and looks into the camera piercingly
Founder + Artistic Director of The Congregation, dani tirrell. Image credit John Beursken


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