Museum Hosts Groundbreaking New Ballet on Jan. 23

Black Iris Project’s solo ballet centers around one mother coping from the loss of her child to a racially motivated murder

The Delaware Art Museum is pleased to announce that it will host A Mother’s Rite, the Black Iris Project’s groundbreaking solo ballet, on Thursday, January 23 at 6:00 p.m. Founded in 2016 by choreographer Jeremy McQueen, The Black Iris Project is a ballet collaborative and education vehicle that creates new classical and contemporary ballet works that celebrate diversity and Black history. A Mother’s Rite, which is set to Igor Stravinsky’s iconic composition Rite of Spring, is a moving 38-minute solo performance about how a mother copes with the loss of her child to a racially-motivated murder by police.

Jeremy McQueen, artistic director and choreographer for the Black Iris Project, says about the inspiration of A Mother’s Rite, “I was first inspired to create A Mother’s Rite when I attended a Solange concert at Radio City Music Hall. Solange was performing a song called ‘Mad’ and started to increasingly appear physically and emotionally distressed. As I was watching this almost ritualistic shedding of pain, I started to think about what I and Black Americans have the right to be mad about and I started to think more and more about the senseless killings of Black men and women across our country. A Mother’s Rite is choreographed to illustrate a side of the story that is often kept very private, one that the public is not often exposed to.”

The Museum is offering A Mother’s Rite in conjunction with their participation in One Village Alliance’s Raising Kings 2020, a week of events (January 20 – 25) around Wilmington focused on empowering young Black men and their families. In addition to the January 23 Black Iris performance, the Museum will host a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 20.

“MLK Day of Service is a time for us to celebrate our many accomplishments around building equity in our city, but also for us to reflect on the work that still needs to be done,” says Jonathan Whitney, the Museum’s Manager of Performance Programs & Community Engagement. “We are inviting the community to join us on MLK day to make chess sets for youth, knit caps for infants, and drop off winter coats for the homeless, while also hearing flash talks about voting rights, the importance of census participation, the school to prison pipeline, and infant mortality. We hope people will then come back that Thursday for A Mother’s Rite to reflect with us on the effects of racially motivated violence on families and communities of color.”

Keeping in line with its vision to collaborate with local organizations, the Museum is also partnering with Pieces of a Dream, Inc., Christiana Cultural Arts Center, and Cab Calloway School for the Arts around A Mother’s Rite.

Leading up to the public performance, Pieces of a Dream, Inc. will offer a free ballet master class for dancers with the soloist from A Mother’s Rite on Wednesday, January 22 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at their Lancaster Avenue dance studio. Interested participants should pre-register at

During the first half of the public performance on January 23, ensembles of local dancers from both Pieces of a Dream, Inc. and the Christina Cultural Arts Center will perform. This will be followed by a brief intermission, then Black Iris Project’s 38-minute solo piece A Mother’s Rite. A Q & A between director Jeremy McQueen and the creative mind behind Raising Kings Week, Chandra Pitts from One village Alliance, will immediately follow the performance.

“The opportunity for the Black Iris Project to visit Delaware for performances and workshops is fundamentally important to the social and cultural development of our state,” says Ashley S.K. Davis, Executive and Artistic Director at Pieces of a Dream, Inc. “While there is no shortage of ballet companies in the region, there is a poignant lack of African-American bodies on these illustrious stages. For aspiring young Black ballerinas and ballerinos to see themselves represented in this genre can be inspiring and life-changing. It is also important for the community at large, dancers and non-dancers alike, to see this classical dance form centered on Black bodies and focused on Black stories.”

Both the MLK Day of Service in conjunction with Raising Kings and the Black Iris Project performance are part of the Museum’s ongoing effort to present forward-thinking artists who are addressing topics relevant to its local community.

The MLK Day of Service will take place on Monday, January 20, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event is free, but donations are encouraged. A Mother’s Rite starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 2020. Tickets, which can be purchased at or at the door, are $10 for students with a valid ID, $20 for Museum Members, and $25 for Non-Members.

Sponsors: This engagement of the Black Iris Project is made possible through the Special Presenter Initiatives program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Additional support was provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.