April 5, 2024

Forever changed by displacement, forever bound by experience, the Black body pulsates with the rhythm of resilience. El ritmo que nos libre: Das almas assassinadas aos espíritos vivos (The Rhythm that Frees Us: From Murdered Souls to Living Spirits) was more than a performance; it was an immersive experience where rhythm became a tangible force for liberation, identity, and unity for all participants.

"It was beautiful and luminous; as it began several members of the cast entered the COLAB playing instruments of the African diaspora (clave, cowbell, maracas) then silently invited audience members to take them into their hands and continue the beat, which was the 3-2 son clave…" ~ Professor Rachel Price. View short clip

Christina Lee with Carrington Johnson '24 and two others

Carrington Johnson '24 with Christina Lee pictured in the center of this photo

This choreopoem was inspired by the vibrant cultural traditions of Cuba, Brazil, Panama and Puerto Rico, where music and dance become expressions of political resistance, identity navigation, and connection for afro-descendant peoples. It follows the story of a lost community that rediscovers their collective identity through a collection of artifacts, each piece an active memory and a living testament to the enduring spirit of communities uprooted and reborn. Together, they reclaim their rhythm, their spirit, their home. View short clip

El ritmo que nos libre is an invitation: connect with the past, celebrate the present, and envision a future where the Black body is no longer alone. It’s a call to action, reminding us that even in the face of displacement, rhythm remains a constant force in the struggle for liberation.

"I distinctly remember Carrington’s joyful Bomba dancing in Loíza (Puerto Rico) during our SPA 250 class trip in her sophomore year. Seeing how she seized on that inspired experience, almost three years later, to grow as a trilingual artist and intellectual and create such beautiful, rich, and poignant performance touched me (as I’m sure it touched others) at my core." ~ SPO Acting Chair, Christina Lee


Notes from audience members and performers:

"Thank you for creating a space within this institution in which I can see myself.  As soon as I walked in, I felt represented." ~ A Palenquera Professor 

"This was truly a space for healing. Thank you for helping me take a break from Princeton and just exist." ~ A Princeton Senior

"I loved the part where you moved the audience in their seats. The sense of discomfort felt from not having control over how we viewed the performance allowed me to really reflect on the idea of displacement....Even today the Black body continues without direction." ~ A Family Friend

"This wasn't like a regular performance where everyone simply played their role. I could genuinely see how passionate the performers were about this experience. You could feel how deeply they were connected to it."  ~ A Princeton Senior 

"I placed a "fita" on the tree for healing and woke up without my cough the next day."  ~ A Princeton Senior

"I asked for healing for my 18-month old grandson. His liver transplant was successful" ~ Princeton Vocal Faculty

"I cried the entire time. I had so much pride in seeing the final culmination of this in-depth research. Seeing everything in one place allowed these memories to exist as a connected web as opposed to isolated experiences." ~  A SPO Concentrator

"I didn't realize there were people in Cuba having these kinds of conversations." ~  A Cuban International Student

"It's beautiful here. Can I really add something to the tree? Are you sure? Well green is my favorite color. What does the green one mean, and where is it from? ~  A Nine-Year Old Boy

"Thank you for inviting me into this space and exposing me to a language I've never spoken before." ~  A Performer

"It was truly an honor to be a part of this experience because it centered the Afro-Latinx experience within the African diaspora...Your work affirms that Black history not only aligns itself with the SPO department, but that there's an intersection that is not talked about enough." ~  A SPO Concentrator 

"We started off knowing our power and were even able to imagine it through exploitation.... No matter where I end up in the world, I will always carry my inherited strength with me." ~  A Performer

"We share that ancestry no matter what language we speak or culture we practice." ~  A Performer

"Being able to show that rhythm lives within the Black body was so uplifting for me. We genuinely felt it though our bodies... We were taken over by the beauty of music and life, something shared by Black bodies no matter where they ended up." ~  A Performer

Videos clips referenced above from the performances were taken by SPO Acting Chair, Christina Lee. 

SPO senior Carrington Johnson is among several students awarded the Howard and Suzanne Kauffmann Fund For Spanish and Portuguese Studies which had been established in 2022 by Lane Kauffmann '70 in honor of his parents. All of the artifacts collected, and poetry inspired by Panama and Brazil would not have been possible without the generous donation made through the Kauffmann Fellowship.