Black Velvet: Brooklyn raised dancer prepares for hometown debut of international act

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Talk about a homecoming dance!

A Brooklyn-born jitterbug is bringing his international dance act to his home borough for the first time on May 9, when his show “Black Velvet” will make its Kings County premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“For me to bring my work to Brooklyn Academy of Music feel monumental, and it feels like a homecoming,” said Shamel Pitts.

The Bedford-Stuyvesant raised dancer and choreographer developed his multidisciplinary dance performance as a visual expression of his partnership with fellow dancer Mirelle Martins, who attended a dance workshop Pitts taught in 2013, leading to an instant and profound connection that could only be expressed one way — through dance!

“Black Velvet is about the efficiency of strangers to become partners,” said Pitts.

Pitts, who utilizes an Israeli style of dance that features subtle movements with explosive gestures, called Gaga, first premiered in Brazil in 2016, before heading out on an international tour that netted the dance duo an Audience Choice Award at the Stockholm Fringe Festival in Sweden.

But the show also leans on the talents of Brazil-based Graphic Designer and Video Artist Lucca Del Carlo, who employs a special, single-point projection technique that utilizes video mapping to project three-dimensional images around Pitts and Martins movements.

“The work is very cinematic,” said Pitts. “It’s contemporary art more than dance.”

And Pitts developed a soundscape for Black Velvet that borrows from Brooklyn-born rapper Jay Z, along with other African American poets and artists.

“Their music is part of the soundscape in very subtle ways,” said Pitts. “That’s why, especially in Brooklyn, people who know of Jay Z’s work, Nina Simone, and Frank Ocean, they’ll feel them.”

Experience “Black Velvet” at Brooklyn Academy of Music Fishman Space [321 Ashland Pl. between Lafayette Avenue and Hanson Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100,]. May 9–11 at 7:30 p.m. May 12 at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $20.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 11:30 am, April 29, 2019
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