By Michael Tomberlin
Rachel Lockhart is giving her own movement to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The 19-year-old Birmingham dancer was preparing to shoot a new dance video with friends when the killing of George Floyd ignited renewed calls for social justice.
That caused the Alabama School of Fine Arts graduate and her team of videographers to revamp the choreography and video to create art that fits in with the movement.
“I was just trying to think of ways I could use my platform and also use my art form to spread awareness to everything that’s going on,” Lockhart said. “Although I like sharing posts and liking pictures and donating, I felt like there was a part of me that hadn’t really expressed my side of things.”
Titled “They Still Don’t Care,” the dance is a mix of soft and hard movements that are both evocative and provocative as Lockhart showcases grace, power and vulnerability in choreography set to “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson.
Not unlike the many murals that have been created in Birmingham and other parts of the state, Lockhart’s dance is an artistic expression that seeks unity, understanding, equality and social justice.
The video was shot in the early morning hours in several downtown Birmingham locations including the new BLACK LIVES MATTER street mural in front of Railroad Park and Kelly Ingram Park in the Civil Rights District. Lockhart collaborated with Sub Urban Creative, Kaptured Kaios and drone pilot Jonathon Black to produce the video.
“It was kind of awkward just being that vulnerable in public, showing that different side,” Lockhart said of dancing around in downtown places. “But for the most part I was just able to kind of block everything out and put myself in the position of how a lot of people are feeling.”
It’s not surprising, given that Lockhart has been dancing publicly since the age of 2. As the daughter of well-known Birmingham dance teacher Jacqueline Lockhart, and founder of Jazz in the Park Bernard Lockhart, public expression of art is nothing new to the young dancer.
Lockhart began attending the Alabama School of Fine Arts in the seventh grade and started dancing with the Atlanta Dance Commission while at ASFA. She attended the Juilliard Summer Intensive between her junior and senior years, putting her closer to her dream of attending the Juilliard School in New York upon graduation.
Lockhart just completed her first year at Juilliard and is looking forward to her second year, whether that will be in person or virtually this fall.
For this summer, Lockhart is back in Birmingham and teaching dance.
Lockhart once had ambitions of joining a dance company after Juilliard, but her time spent teaching is making it more likely she will follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“I think my calling is teaching,” she said. “I love to teach and allow God to use me to reach other people. When I graduate, instead of being in a company, I want to teach for a company, choreograph for various companies and travel around.”
The new video is certainly exposing Lockhart to a larger audience on social media.
“I just hope it can reach beyond the state of Alabama and reach different audiences and people all over,” she said.
Lockhart said she has been blown away by the reaction.
“People are loving it,” she said. “They’re saying it’s very powerful with a great message.”
While she has been in other videos, Lockhart said this is the first time she has collaborated with videographers and a drone pilot for a production.
“Expressing all of the anger, frustration, wrath, and pain of our people through art,” Lockhart wrote in her Facebook post of the video. “Fighting for a change through movement and film, we teamed up on this project in hopes of spreading awareness through our art.”
Isaac Lee Nunn, co-founder of Sub Urban Creative, designed the shirts Lockhart wears in the video. For the orange jumpsuit, Lockhart bought a beige one and painted it.
For the choreography, Lockhart said she went into her garage, which has been converted into a dance studio for her virtual classes with Juilliard. She went mostly on feel, tapping into the emotions of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I played the music and just set whatever came to me,” she said. “I really wanted to channel the concepts of pain and anger and wrath that everyone has been feeling lately and put that all into movement and expression.”