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Christal Brown production showcases Muhammad Ali

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Christal Brown production showcases Muhammad Ali
(Photo: Photo: Courtesy Christal Brown)

Christal Brown’s troupe INSPIRIT will be performing “The Opulence of Integrity” at The Dance Complex through April 2. Brown’s first production with an all-male cast draws inspiration from the life and legend of Muhammad Ali. The four-movement show reflects on Ali’s work as an activist and his experience as a public martyr, using elements of boxing, hip-hop, martial arts and modern dance.

On the web

For more information and to purchase tickets for “The Opulence of Integrity,” visit: www.dancecomplex.org.

More than just a show about an athlete, “Opulence” is a rumination on black masculinity. Working with an all-male cast has been a significant departure for Brown. Initially INSPIRIT was an all-female troupe who worked primarily with feminist content. It was the birth of Brown’s son that sparked a change in thought. Now more than ever she been contemplating the barriers that come with the term “black male.” “I think the piece serves to give a kaleidoscope view of what black masculinity means,” says Brown. “It’s important to see a cast of all black men on the stage.” Brown says that she sees the potential for greatness in everyone around her and here she explores what brings that potential out in certain people.

In addition to the intricate choreography, the show features a score by Farai Malianga, a Zimbabwean-American composer who fuses a series of musical styles from traditional West African beats to ’70s funk. The piece was originally born out of Brown’s collaboration with another composer, jazz musician Fred Ho. While being treated for cancer at Beth Israel here in Boston, Ho asked Brown to collaborate with him on a piece honoring Ali. The performance debuted in 2012 and though Ho passed, Brown continued with that inspiration. “I began to forge my own ideas about his life, his legend and his activism,” she says.

“Opulence” also features the use of projection and spoken word in the form of quotes from Ali’s canon. It’s a full sensory experience. This week’s performances are preceded by a week-long residency by Brown at The Dance Complex. Brown is offering two master classes, open dialogues about the work and other opportunities to engage with the company. On Saturday, April 1, a pre-show dialogue will be facilitated by Peter DiMuro, executive director of the Dance Complex.

Students from Boston Arts Academy, Brookline High School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School will perform their own pieces inspired by Ali prior to each weekend show. Brown encourages viewers of all interests to come see the high-energy production. She says, “It’s just as much athletic as it is artistic.”