A group of dancers step high on stage.

C. Brian Williams to join Dec. 8 ‘Meeting the Moment’

Musical artist and The Shakes leader Michael Mwenso will continue his “Meeting the Moment” livestream series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, by speaking with Step Afrika! executive director C. Brian Williams.

To introduce the webisode, Williams will debut “No Justice, No Peace,” a seven-minute work by Step Afrika! co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the Major University Presenters consortium.

The virtual program will be broadcast via the Zoom video app, and questions will be taken in real time from audience members. Visit cpa.psu.edu/events/meetingthemoment3 for more information.

Contributions from the members of the Center for the Performing Arts and a grant from the University Park Student Fee Board help make the program free of charge. Meghan R. Mason Program Endowment and Richard Robert Brown Program Endowment provide support for “Meeting the Moment.” Don and Mary Ellen Fisher provide lead support for the co-commission. The Debra Lee Latta and Dr. Stanley E. Latta Endowment, along with Susan and Lewis Steinberg, provide additional support.

The program is part of the center’s “Up Close and Virtual” fall season. “Meeting the Moment with Michael Mwenso” also is the keystone event of the center’s Fierce Urgency Festival, the center’s commitment to celebrating Black artists and sharing their stories. Learn more about the festival at cpa.psu.edu//fierceurgency.

In 1994, Williams founded Washington, D.C.-based Step Afrika!, the country’s first professional step dance troupe. He has performed and taught all over the world, and he is also a founder of the historic Step Afrika! International Cultural Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In January, the Center for the Performing Arts hosted at Eisenhower Auditorium the world premiere of “Drumfolk,” the company’s piece inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739. In an interview with the center, Williams stressed his optimism and the role of the arts in connecting the past to the future.

“No current event or isolated political turmoil will ever dampen my optimism for a bright, better and deeply inclusive future,” he said. “I have traveled and connected intensely with so many cultures that I know that we share much more in common than not. And the theater is my favorite place to bring different cultures and perspectives together for a beautiful, shared experience.”

Watch a “#MaskItUp” video by Step Afrika at tinyurl.com/y2osckyy.

As curator and events programmer at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Mwenso performed with the likes of Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jon Batiste, Aaron Diehl, Sullivan Fortner and Jamison Ross. And through performances at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, he collaborated with a variety of Juilliard-trained musicians, a global-artist collective that became known as The Shakes. Because of his expertise on Black cultural and musical history, Mwenso recently was appointed a visiting professor of the arts at the University of Buffalo, teaching “Protest, Hope and Resilience through the Black Arts.”

Watch Mwenso perform with The Shakes in a music video for “No Regrets” at youtu.be/_Ye3VZ5Whmg.

Geisinger and Northwest provide support for virtual presentations by the Center for the Performing Arts.

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