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WYSO is traveling the Miami Valley to find out how people mark the big moments in life. We’ll be covering the origins and histories of holidays, as well as the unique ways they’re celebrated in our region. If there’s a celebration you think we should cover, please let us know!

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company to celebrate Juneteenth at The Brightside

Courtesy of DCDC

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is hosting a Juneteenth celebration at the Brightside this Wednesday. In addition to performances, they’ll auction off local art inspired by the dance company.

Countess Winfrey is one of the DCDC dancers performing at the event, and she choreographed one of the pieces.

“I created a trio,” she said. “The piece itself is called ‘Nourishing Roots,’ and it's three women in white and beautiful rose petals.”

“The arts can be a gateway to freedom."

Winfrey designed the piece around a Laura Mvlue song called “Bread.”

“There's a line that she says in the song—it says, ‘lay the breadcrumbs down so we can find our way.’ And oftentimes, that makes me think about what my ancestors have done for me to allow me to have the life that I live right now,” Winfrey said. “All the bread crumbs, all the building blocks that they built, and all the walls they overcame in order for me to be where I am now. So, it's almost like a love letter to my ancestors.”

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will announce its 2024-2025 schedule at the Juneteenth celebration, and Winfrey says it’s fitting because DCDC’s history has always been intertwined with the Civil Rights movement, and the company’s founder, the late Jeraldyne Blunden, is an inspiration to Winfrey.

“The year this company was founded was the same year that Martin Luther King died, and to be able to have something that was our own was not always a possibility,” Winfrey said. “So I think the fact that a Black woman in a Midwest small city—for her to be able to create this is just pretty remarkable.”

The event will also have an art auction to raise money for the dance company. Volunteer Abigail Trittschuh came up with the idea of inviting visual artists into DCDC’s space to watch rehearsals and create art.

“It kind of started as that, and bloomed into 26 original pieces of artwork,” Trittschuh said. “There's acrylic paintings, oil paintings. There's charcoal sketches. I have three glass pieces. There's a chair. They're all in my dining room right now. So, it's blocked off from pets and children and whatnot.”

Countess Winfrey photographed by Michelle Reid
Courtesy of DCDC
Countess Winfrey photographed by Michelle Reid

Julie Riley is one of the artists who made work at rehearsals, though she wasn’t able to finish hers at DCDC.

“We went there, and it was so funny because I started sketching at first, and then I got so mesmerized by the dancing, I forgot to sketch,” Riley said. “So in the last few minutes of the rehearsal, I was just taking photographs as fast as I could.

From those sketches and photos, Riley made a graphic piece of a dancer in motion with bright colors all around her. And Riley will be making a painting live, in person during the event.

“I’m not sure what I’m painting yet,” she said. “But once I'm done with the painting there, it's going to be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to the fundraiser too.”

Riley has done live painting for nonprofit events before, like the Boonshoft Museum and Kettering Health.

“The first time I did it, I was scared to death,” she said. “But since then I've done it a lot, and I absolutely love it. You just kind of get lost in painting. It attracts a lot of attention. You know, people really want to buy that painting for the fundraiser because they’ve seen it come together and they're really excited about it.”

There are some experiences on auction too, like a glass blowing experience with local artist Jim DeLange.

Dancer Countess Winfrey said she enjoys seeing the arts come together for Juneteenth.

“The arts can be a gateway to freedom,” she said. “And inside of the African American experience, there have been a lot of barriers, a lot of not feeling like full people, not being treated as full people. The journey has been long, and it’s still ongoing. And so I think it’s especially important on Juneteenth to make sure that we are uplifting those days, those months, those years, those ideas, those generations of Black people.”

The Juneteenth Celebration at the Brightside starts at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. For more information, visit the event website.