Duane Cyrus and Hero Complexities
“I never fully comprehended his sacrifice until that moment,” explains Duane Cyrus as he recalls the 2013 commemoration of his uncle’s heroism. “When I sat in the audience as the United States Coast Guard commissioned a fast response cutter in honor of Charles David, Jr., I knew I had to know more about this overlooked legacy.”
Inspired by the man who saved nearly 100 servicemen from drowning off the coast of Greenland in 1943, Duane Cyrus’s “Hero Complexities,” has flourished. In less than four years, this Theatre of Movement production has gained national and international recognition as a multimedia performance celebrating heroism and Black male bodies in all their forms.
“We’ve performed across the state and the nation,” says the UNCG associate professor of dance. “The professional and artistic growth this piece has granted not only me, but also the original cast is incredible.”
Such growth includes the Resistance Project, a spiritual extension of the intersectional exploration of bodies and stories “Hero Complexities” began. The Resistance Project highlights Black women artists, scholars, organizers, and activists through empowerment and art. It features community engagement, performance, and development workshops – opportunities that are available to women of all ages and backgrounds.
“Hero Complexities” might not have been possible without support from UNCG. In addition to securing a UNCG Faculty Grant and Provost Strategic Seed Grant, Duane received a Faculty First Summer Excellence Award. This highly competitive award allowed him to travel to Virginia and Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2016, to conduct research that would prove critical to the piece’s development.
In 2021, “Hero Complexities” undergoes its next evolution. As part of UNCG’s Spring Dances Concert, senior dance majors – men and women – will perform restaged excerpts under Duane’s direction. The flexibility and challenges of virtual dance coursework and increased calls for justice for Black lives inform this new production.
“‘Hero Complexities’ explores what it is to be a Black man, in all his strengths and vulnerabilities, during a unique moment in time. With a pandemic stretching our creativity, a renewed focus on racial injustice, and a fuller understanding of the gender spectrum, I hope this performance opens new opportunities for dialogue and engagement.”
The Spring Dances Concert will occur on April 9 and 10, 2021. For more details please visit https://vpa.uncg.edu/single-event/spring-dances-2021/.
For more information about Duane Cyrus, “Hero Complexities”, and Theatre of Movement, please visit https://www.theatreofmovement.org/.
Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Office of Donor and Board Engagement
Photo Collage by Devin Newark
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