Cliche aside, life for many African-American males can be like trying to walk across a thin rope; lean too much to one side and it is easy to fall victim to violence and destruction.
Lean too much the other way and risk being alienated or ignored.
With dance, Tristian Griffin plans to perform the delicate walk that so many African-American males endure when he takes the stage on Saturday during the Martin Luther King Jr. statewide celebration.
In the performance, his character “is literally on the brink of falling into nonexistence,” said Griffin, 24, a Kansas City native who since April has performed with the Garth Fagan Dance Company, based in New York.
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Saturday will be first time Griffin has performed in his hometown in about two years.
“I am really excited to give myself to the audience and to this cause, and I hope that the audience enjoys it,” he said.
The performance is one of several that honor the legacy of the slain civil rights leader. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Concord Fortress of Hope Church, 11050 Longview Parkway in south Kansas City.
Event organizers said that aside from Griffin, the program will feature a number of classically trained artists and performers.
“There is so much talent here in Kansas City, and it is exciting to bring them all together for one night,” said Lessie Thompson, local chairperson.
Griffin was born and raised in Kansas City and graduated from Raymore-Peculiar High School in 2010. He later attended Texas Christian University through the Nordan Fine Arts scholarship and in 2014 received a bachelor of fine arts degree in ballet.
However, pursuing a career in dance wasn’t an easy choice. Growing up, Griffin said his interests included sports, academics and the theater, dance in particular.
“It was kind of tug of war between all of those activities,” he said.
As a high school freshman, Griffin said, he sat down with his parents to discuss what interest he would pursue.
“To this day, I don’t know why I stuck with dance,” he said. “But I have stuck with it for 13 years.”
Performing with the Garth Fagan Dance Company in New York has been a dream come true, Griffin said.
“It is amazing to dance alongside such talented artists, as well as working for a living legend,” he said.
Before joining the Fagan company, Griffin said, he picked up small jobs, so it was a huge transition performing on a larger stage. Last year, the company began performing “Geoffrey Holder Life Fete … Bacchanal.” The show will travel to Los Angeles next month for a series of performances.
“Everyone works very hard, and nothing is given,” Griffin said. “So every day, you have to come in, you sweat, bleed and cry. That is one reason why he (Fagan) has been in the field successfully for 45 years.
“You have to learn from your mistakes as it is in life; you have to learn what you did wrong and correct yourself.”