Patriot Photo

Members of BlackBox Dance Theatre will perform “Patriot” a multifaceted performance piece at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 in the Main Campus Student Center Black Box Theatre.

BlackBox Dance Theatre (BBDT) will arrive at East Carolina University’s Main Campus Student Center Black Box Theatre on Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. with “Patriot,” a multimedia dance, theatre and storytelling show.

“Patriot” was inspired by real stories, both collected from veterans outside the group as well as some of the group’s members themselves. Former paratrooper for the United States Army and Purple Heart recipient Alfredo Hurtado is one of BBDT’s founding members and dancers, according to BBDT’s website. Hurtado said as a musician and soccer player, the arts and working with a team were not new concepts to him. 

“I started off as a musician, but I’ve been a soccer player my whole life and I was in the military, very physically active,” Hurtado said. “Just seeing them perform on stage, there’s this trust, this comradery that happens.”

A comradery that Hurtado said he needed after returning home from his last tour. Even after doing all the therapy he was supposed to do to make him better, Hurtado said there was still something missing.

With his background in music, Hurtado said he had composed some music which his wife then brought to Artistic Director for BBDT Michelle Pearson. Hurtado said Pearson took him under her wing and he found that dancing made it easier to tell his story.

“I need to be a part of this,” Hurtado said. “I need to be moving around and it was easy for me to tell my story and that’s how I ended up becoming a dancer.”

Not everyone in “Patriot” served in the military and the show does offer a perspective beyond that of a combat veteran, according to BBDT’s website.

One member of BBDT with a different perspective to offer the performance is Stephen James Rodriguez Velez who said he offers his viewpoint as the family member to a number of veterans.

“My grandfather and my uncle, they served in Vietnam and Grenada and my brother is joining the Army,” Velez said. “So I do have a connection with the military even though I haven’t been in the military.”

Having been with BBDT for six years, Velez said over that time has heard some powerful stories revolving around the world of military service.

Velez said BBDT does workshops with retirement homes, colleges and artists. Coupled with his experiences working with BBDT and his own personal experiences, he said he’s heard a number of powerful stories.

“There’s a lot of powerful things there,” Velez said. “Most of them are money, most of them are studies. The stories about when they come back, what is their story, what is their integration back into the community and what happened while they were serving.”

BBDT’s Artistic Director Michelle Pearson is also a 1992 graduate of ECU. Pearson graduated from ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance with her BFA in dance.

Pearson said that Patriot will only see the stage for one night, but it has been much more than a one night event for those involved in the production of the show.

“The show is Thursday, but it’s certainly not a one day event,” Pearson said. “We’ve been coming here over the past year and a half meeting students who have a military connection or want to know more and lean in.”

Pearson said BBDT started with Patriot in the School of Theatre and Dance at ECU doing writing, storytelling and interviewing.

As she came back to work with dancers whose shoes she once filled, Pearson said she wants to offer this experience as a real world example of what can be done with dance.

“It’s important to me for dancers to know how they might be able to apply these amazing skills that they’re learning in the studio in the real world,” Pearson said. “When I say I’ve done nothing but dance for thirty years, I’ve done nothing but dance for thirty years.”

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