A film by Brandon K. Calhoun, Jason Pickney
Shot by Jason Pickney, Wills Glasspiegel
Edited by Brand K. Calhoun
Video Produced by The Era Footwork Crew
Follow @brand_k_calhoun Follow @glasspiegel
Special thanks to the artist featured in this video: Crystal James
Lead Funding for this project came from the Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation
The Testament is a response to the industries that surround dance and to the times we’re currently facing in the world today. Too often black bodies, black dancers, black anything is cast to the wayside. We are forced to deal with the many faces of brutality. The Testament speaks to dancers using battling as an instrument to fight oppression that comes in any form.
The Era Footwork Crew are pioneers of the battle dance known as Chicago footwork. Since 2014, they have expanded upon what it means to be a dance crew, addressing inequality and racism through their lyrics and panel discussions and supporting women and girls in the history of footwork through collaboration and documentation. They have performed from Japan to Peru, performing and choreographing alongside leading artists such as Chance the Rapper, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Theaster Gates. Institutions like the Field Foundation, the University of Chicago, the Joyce Foundation, and NEFA (New England Foundation For The Arts) have recognized The Era with grants in support of the group's boundary-breaking artistic and social leadership. The Eras work has been in short documentaries by VICE, CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company), and the Chicago Tribune. In 2019, The Era was awarded the recent National Dance Prize from NEFA (New England Foundation For The Arts), a $90k grant that puts The Era and IN THE WURKZ at the frontlines of American concert dance. IN THE WURKZ by, The Era features Artists Jamal "Litebulb" Oliver, Sterling "Steelo" Lofton, Brandon "Chief Manny" Calhoun, Jemal "P-Top" De La Cruz, and William "Wills" Glasspiegel and features P.I.C (Partners in the Circle) Diamond "Queen Diamond" Hardimon, Elisha "Eleelee" Chandler. The story of IN THE WURKZ will also build on The Era's lyrical approach to footwork with previous music releases that have been in The FADER and other high-end press surrounding music. With IN THE WURKZ, dancers have been able to narrate their life stories through memories associated with footwork dancing -- from "juke parties" at roller rinks on the South Side to battles after the Bud Billiken Parade in Jackson Park. Chicago themes will drive this story about the life-saving power of footwork and community across generations of dancers. This new project will tour nationally and internationally in 2020-2021 with support from NEFA.
From Chatham to Tokyo, our work calls attention to the history of footwork across three generations of black dancers and also to the global scope of this history as footwork continues to develop and expand. In the words of the Chicago Tribune, which featured us in an Arts Section cover story: "The Era has taken footwork back for Chicago." - Chicago Tribune