Meet Germaul Barnes, Southern Danceworks’ new artistic director

Germaul Barnes
Germaul Barnes is the new artistic director of Southern Danceworks. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

At the beginning, Birmingham Creative Dance Company, was the first integrated dance company in the state of Alabama. Now known as Southern Danceworks, the company has appointed Germaul Barnes as artistic director. He is the first African American male in this role. The dance world can’t wait to see what happens next. Keep reading for the inside scoop.

Meet Germaul Barnes

A while back, I wrote about three male dancers you need to know. Germaul Barnes was one of them. At that time, he was Alabama School of Fine Art (ASFA)’s new Instructor of Modern and Contemporary Dance. He was also Artist in Residence at The Dance Foundation.

Barnes said he was first introduced to Alabama through Southern Danceworks. In 2010, when Teri Weksler was the Artistic Director, he was commissioned to do a piece for the company.

“Being appointed artistic director feels like full circle—it’s beautiful, how the company has sustained itself.”

Germaul Barnes, Artistic Director, Southern Danceworks

A little bit about Southern Danceworks

Southern Danceworks rehearsing at Alys Stephens Center in 2010. Video via Alys Stephens Center

Southern Danceworks was the brainchild of the late Laura Knox, a beloved figure in Alabama’s dance scene. Known as “Alabama’s oldest professional modern dance company,” this was also the first integrated dance company in the state.

Embedded in the founder’s vision was a passion for global dance. The appointment of Germaul Barnes as Artistic Director fits perfectly with that vision. The Chicago-born daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Knox was influenced by stories of the Holocaust. These caused her to look at the relationships between white and Black people in her adopted home.

Her decision to include Black children in dance classes and performances was radical at the time. At one performance, audience members threw rocks at the performers.

Still, Southern Danceworks changed the face of dance in our state.

The new vision for Southern Danceworks

For 26 years, Barnes has had his own multimedia performance company, called Viewsic Dance, in New York. Barnes wants to bring a similar blend of digital music and dance to The Magic City. He wants to create mutimedia, multidisciplinary dance performances, workshops and collaborations, with a strong focus on equity and inclusion.

Barnes is excited to bring a global perspective and international artists to Birmingham. He wants to uplift the entire artistic community using the medium of dance.

“I’m known for my hashtag #globaldancemaker. It is steeped in a sense of boldness, urgency and a very energetic movement style. I focus on spirituality and optimism, musicality and social justice. And, I have a strong interest in anthropology and the culture of African disaporic Blackness.”

Germaul Barnes

What’s next for Southern Danceworks

This will be a year of restructuring and relaunching, according to Barnes. Stay tuned for future announcements on social media.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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