The combo marching band slash drill team left a mark on the sold-out audience with their Off-Broadway debut performance at La MaMa Theater Friday.
Brooklyn United is a community organization that serves to combine academics, performance, and character building to inner-city children and teens ages five to seventeen. Historically, the group has performed at halftime for the Brooklyn Nets, were the winners on an episode Steve Harvey’s talent competition “Showtime at the Apollo,” and most notably, lead President Obama’s inaugural parade.
“BU” as they call themselves, is known for the motto “More than an After-School Program” and they live up to the slogan. The student performers practice with the group five days a week for up to three hours and have shows every weekend.
While BU is known for it’s high-energy drum lines, separated into three different groups by age: the female dancers put in major work as well.
“I wanted to make this into an overall strong, thriving department where girls could come in here and learn about being better dancers and also just being better people,” said Dara Adams, lead choreographer for BU.
The show itself was a high-energy production–an explosive performance complete with loud drums, sparkly costumes, perfectly executed choreography and the tiniest pre-adolescent boys making twirling drumsticks look easy. While there were parts of the show featuring upbeat, innocent fun, Brooklyn United did not shy away from supporting making statements about causes they support.
In one segment of the show, political photography flashed in the background, depicting the group’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In another, a pre-recorded video talked of Brooklyn United’s opportunity to visit South Africa for the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death and how the group became supporters of a school there and continues to send money and other resources needed back to Johannesburg.
Following the video of Brooklyn United’s trip to South Africa, the dancers and drummers took the stage in South African-inspired costumes and paid homage to the culture with traditional dance and music.
The combination of musically talented children and teens, sassy dance numbers, and the philanthropy that stands behind the program made for a memorable debut Off-Broadway performance.