Honoring Black History Month with Upcoming Performances


Honoring and remembering legendary Black individuals who have shaped history, the Center for the Arts celebrates Black History Month this February with a collection of amazing Black stories and artists, across opera, art song, and contemporary dance. 

Inspired by William Still's writings, "Sanctuary Road" comes to the Center on February 3 and 4.
"Sanctuary Road" comes to the Center on February 3 and 4.

On February 3 and 4, Virginia Opera introduces the Center’s audience to the contemporary opera Sanctuary Road by Pulitzer Prize winners composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell. Based on the life and writings of William Still, an African American leader on the Underground Railroad who helped more than 800 enslaved people escape to freedom, Sanctuary Road distills and dramatizes the stories from Still’s book. Interviewing the men and women he helped find passage north, Still kept careful records, including a brief biography and the destination for each, along with any alias they had adopted. Music will be provided by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and lyrics will be sung in English with English surtitles.  

For a special preview of the opera’s incredible music, watch the video below of soprano LaToya Lain performing “Rain” from the “largely tonal, intensely dramatic” (Classical Review) Sanctuary Road

Composer and Artist, Damien Geter
Composer and artist, Damien Geter, stars in Virginia Opera's Sanctuary Road on February 3 and 4, as well as song cycle, Cotton, on February 6.

Virginia Opera presents an additional opportunity to explore Black voices with a free presentation of Damien Geter’s powerful song cycle, Cotton, on February 6 at Old Town Hall in Fairfax, VA. Part of Virginia Opera’s 2nd annual Pride in Black Voices program as well as a free, open-to-the-public presentation of the Friends of the Center for the Arts Artists in Conversation Series, this song cycle is inspired by the captivating photography of acclaimed Philadelphia artist John Dowell, Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past, which was the result of Dowell’s 10-year exploration of African American life and ancestral journey as seen through the lens of the cotton industry. Each song in the cycle features the poetry of Nikki Giovanni, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and other Black American poets, exploring the Black American journey seen through the lens of the cotton industry. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes this poignant work exploring history and culture “promises to pack a punch.” 

Discover John Dowell’s Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past

Concluding February’s collection of fantastic Black artists is Mason Artist-in-Residence and A.I.M by Kyle Abraham on February 17. MacArthur Genius Award-winning choreographer and founder of A.I.M, Kyle Abraham, has developed “one of the most consistently excellent troupes working today” (New York Times). This Black-led contemporary dance company plans to perform an impressive set of works including Episode 206 (Keerati Jinakunwiphat), Just Your Two Wrists (Paul Singh), and MotorRover (Kyle Abraham) as well as a new work by acclaimed choreographer Andrea Miller. In addition to this thrilling production, as Mason Artist-in-Residence the company will also work with the community through classes and workshops during the week leading up to the performance. Watch a sneak peek of Kyle Abraham’s choreography with the 2023 piece, MotorRover

Interested in more performances to celebrate Black History Month? Visit the Center’s sister venue, the Hylton Center, for even more events for all ages! Tap along with Afro-Honduran tap dancer Gerson Lanza or witness one of America’s top dance companies, Artist-in-Residence PHILADANCO! For the Hylton's virtual audience, watch for the first time or visit The Legendary Ingramettes again on Mason Arts Amplified’s recording of the original December 3 performance. 

Join the Center for the Arts in celebrating Black artists and voices this February and beyond. Visit the Center’s website for more information about tickets and upcoming performances. 

Virginia Opera: Sanctuary Road is sponsored by The Mather and Cotton is underwritten by Dr. Arnold Stolberg.