“I seek to create dance that brings marginalized stories to the stage, hoping to break barriers that make dance inaccessible, particularly when highly conceptual or removed from audiences’ frame of reference. Neighborhoods like the one I grew up in, Mantua, West Philadelphia, a poor, crime- and drug-ridden area  declared a Promise Zone under President Obama, are underserved in terms of the amount of cultural programming available and in terms of content. For young people, to see a reflection of themselves onstage, in a story they relate to or in a person of their ethnicity, can be an encouragement and inspiration. It would have greatly affected me, as a black child in a poor community who dreamed of becoming a dancer.” 

IQUAIL Shaheed.

In order to examine the difficult topic of addiction and its consequences, Pushers will use celebrity culture as its lens, as a way to connect with Mantua youth and encourage them to share their own experiences. The project is part of Shaheed’s ongoing investigation into community-based methods of dance creation, as he attempts to break down barriers that make dance inaccessible to marginalized audiences.

Major support for PUSHERS has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The National Endowment for the Arts.