Jon Boogz and Lil Buck established Movement Art Is in 2016 with just one mission – to inspire change through dance.
The dance group uses movement artistry to voice its concerns about social issues like mass incarceration and racial injustice, Boogz said. The duo has performed in venues across the United States and will showcase “Love Heals All Wounds,” a 10-person dance performance Thursday at Royce Hall.
“We touched on mass incarceration and police brutality, climate change, missing children, … anything that kind of inspires us in that realm,” Boogz said. “(The topic of American social issues is) not really an exclusive thing – it’s inclusive, it can involve multiple people in multiple races.”
Street dance has been ingrained in the duo since childhood. Buck grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he picked up on Memphis Jookin, a local dance style. Meanwhile, Boogz started dancing as a child in Philadelphia. When his family moved to Florida, he found his true calling. It was on the streets of Miami where Boogz said he started to witness and empathize greatly with social issues, which he intertwined into his dances.
Boogz said the duo considers it their duty to continue the traditions of past generations across various cultures. Historically, indigenous groups throughout the world have used dance to convey their stories. In more recent times, African slaves conveyed secret messages through dance, Boogz said. As African Americans, he and Buck realized early on that dance has roots in storytelling and emerged even before language did, Boogz said.
“Dance is a universal language in itself,” Boogz said. “We’re carrying the lineage of what was already laid before us; we touch on the stories that are meaningful to us.”
In the past, Boogz and Buck have also worked on multiple films such as “Am I a Man?,” which is about mass incarceration and racial inequality, and “Color of Reality,” which uses fine art and dance to communicate the dangers of gun violence. They strive to bring their short films to life onstage as they recreate the scenarios and messages they have conceived through dance and spoken word. “Love Heals All Wounds” is an accumulation of different topics addressed in their films and choreography, Buck said, focusing on how climate change and social justice are connected.
“Every story that we touch on or create – whether it is a short film, a live show – we’re pretty passionate about every last one of them, because they all come from a real place in both of our hearts,” Buck said.
Reimy Jones met Boogz and Buck when the three danced for Cirque Du Soleil, which ultimately led to her joining M.A.I. Jones is white and Japanese and spent most of her childhood in New Zealand. Despite differing from the duo in her cultural experiences, she said she has faith in the messages of Buck and Boogz’s stories.
“I actually even felt uncomfortable to dive into (American social issues) just because I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m worthy to be talking about these things or to be dancing about these things,’” Jones said. “But obviously, the cast is amazing, and their No. 1 goal is to spread the message to everyone.”
The accessibility of American social issues is something the pair aims to emphasize in its work. In doing so, Buck and Boogz hope their message will resonate with audiences, ultimately resulting in a call to action, Buck said.
“We want to really build you up to question yourself,” Buck said. “And with that, you can start taking action,” Buck said.