Private Project

Tracing Sacred Steps

Brownbody ( is a non-profit performing arts organization that blends dance, theater, and figure skating. Brownbody presents professional site specific on-ice artistic work that offers honest and nuanced narratives rooted in Blackness. Its most recent artistic work is 'Tracing Sacred Steps' (TSS). This is the cinematic film of this artistic work–an experimental performance film featuring on-ice dance performed by professional Black figure skaters and the work is influenced by Ring Shout. Within a modern dance framework, it engages elements of this sacred practice to illustrate how it continues to serve as a pathway to release and restoration within so many sacred Black spaces. Its intent is twofold: 1) to illustrate how this sacred practice continues to be relevant 2) to honor and pay homage not only to these important cultural and spiritual rituals, but also its practitioners: forcibly displaced Africans that found a way to work towards restoration and wholeness when the way had been stripped, stolen, and beaten out and from them. To these courageous spirits we owe so much.

  • Deneane Richburg
    Her Song
  • Aidan Un
  • Lela Aisha Jones
  • Deneane Richburg
  • Brownbody
    Quiet As It's Kept, The Requisite Movers-Twin Cities, Waiting For You, Being Branded
  • Thomasina Petrus
    Key Cast
  • Chelsea Ridley
    Key Cast
  • Bekah Johnson
    Key Cast
  • Steven Smith
    Key Cast
  • Corley Lovett Jr
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Other
  • Runtime:
    26 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 12, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    270,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Blackstar 2023 William + Louise Greaves Filmmaker Seminar
    United States
    March 17, 2023
Distribution Information
  • Self Distributed
Director Biography - Deneane Richburg, Aidan Un, Lela Aisha Jones

Deneane Richburg (Artistic Conceptualist and Choreographer) is the founder/Artistic Director of Brownbody. Deneane grew up a competitive figure skater—in spaces where she had to check her blackness at the door, as world skating was dominated by whiteness and rooted in values that subjugated her ancestry’s truths. Working in this space, to quote Zora Neale Hurston, she always felt “most colored when [she was] thrown against a sharp white background.” Richburg realized the need to carve out space for herself and her ancestral history hence her decision to establish Brownbody. Since 2013 Brownbody has honored complex narratives of U.S.-based Black communities by taking participants on journeys that disrupt assumptions, disenfranchising ideologies, around blackness. Richburg received her MFA in dance and choreography from Temple University in 2007, an MA in Afro-American Studies from UW Madison, and a BA in English and African American Studies from Carleton College. Working with Lela Aisha Jones, Richburg was also the Co-founder of The Requisite Movers, a Philadelphia based program that supports the work of Black female choreographers. Deneane has danced for a number of artists including, Chris Walker, Jose Francisco Barroso, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, Lela Aisha Jones and has performed with Off Leash Area, Flyground, and Kariamu and Company. Deneane was a African American Leadership Forum 2016 JRJLA fellow, and was a grateful recipient of a 2017 McKnight Choreography Fellowship, administered by the Cowles Center, funded by The McKnight Foundation, a 2019 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, and a Dance/USA Fellowship to Artists made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Aidan Un is a French-Korean-American filmmaker and photographer based in West Philadelphia. He works primarily in the genre of documentary and is interested in questions of culture, place, and identity. Recent works include Sisters of the Soil (2021), a short documentary film made in collaboration with Raishad Momar about a Black owned bookshop in Philadelphia; The Ancestors Live (2020), a feature-length documentary about Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble; video and photo documentation of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project, a community-embedded exploration of the city’s rich and diverse expressions of Yoruba-rooted traditions and culture. His work has been featured at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Mustard Seed Festival, The Outlet Dance Project Festival, New Urban Film Festival, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and BlackStar Film Festival. Aidan is also a member of traditional Korean percussion group URIOL and of the Philadelphia chapter of FICA (Fundação Internacional de Capoeira Angola/International Capoeira Angola Foundation).

Lela Aisha Jones is a movement performance artist and embodied researcher that engages in artistic inquiry. LAJ is also a vocalist and community grounded organizer/curator that collaborates across worlds of practice. For her elegantly daring offerings, LAJ has earned a New York Dance and Performance | Bessie nomination, Leeway Transformation Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Her most recent artistic engagements and projects include a feature film and virtual ceremony titled Revivals of Blackness (2021) curated/commissioned by David Bradley for World Cafe Live (in collaboration with Aidan Un, Luke O’Reilly, and Alex Shaw) and Olney Embrace Project Revival Walks (2020/2021) commissioned by Ambrose Liu for Olney Culture Lab.

LAJ serves as the Associate Artistic Director of Brownbody, a St. Paul Minnesota-based Ice/ Stage dance company, where she restaged with Christine King an excerpt from the famed Jawole Zollar and Urban Bush Women work Walking with Pearl : Southern Diaries : Anybody Here, on ice, with a cast of black figure skaters. LAJ earned a B.S. at University of Florida, an M.F.A. at Florida State University, a Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, and is the Director of Dance at Bryn Mawr College. LAJ was born and raised in the wonderful Tallahassee (old fields), FL and is based in Philadelphia, PA.

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