How will Philadelphia Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream”?


By Roger Lee for The Dance Journal

August 28, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In wake of the coming anniversary, I find myself reflecting on how far the United States has come. I also find myself reflecting on just how far the United States needs to go in order to bring Dr. King’s dream to fruition. In any case, this monumental moment in world history calls for celebration!

This article includes some historical context behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, a discussion of how the global dance community is celebrating the 50th anniversary, and my recommendations for how the Philadelphia dance community can celebrate this major occasion.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech: “I Have A Dream”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech is arguably the most powerful moment of the Civil Rights Movement. This movement was a decade and a half of non-violent protest, civil disobedience, and soul-stirring rhetoric that would forever change the face of America.

On August 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 people gathered to March on Washington for jobs and freedom.  According to, “The demonstrators—black and white, poor and rich—came together in the nation’s capital to demand voting rights and equal opportunity for African Americans and to appeal for an end to racial segregation and discrimination.” This historic event ended with one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speeches, “I Have A Dream.” The speech is just as relevant, impacting, and soul-stirring as it was nearly 50 years ago.

Global Dance Community Celebration: “Dance The Dream”

“Dance The Dream” is a part of THE DREAM @ 50, a world-wide celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. THE DREAM @ 50 is produced by Karz Productions in partnership with many socially-conscious organizations.

On August 28, 2013, a series of dance flash mobs will take place in public squares of cities, towns, and villages around the globe. There are dance flash mobs currently registered in Atlanta, Boston, Cape Town (South Africa), Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New South Wales, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Washington D.C. Registration is open for professional and recreational dancers to come and be a part of the action. The dance flash mobs will be run by professional choreographers from around the globe. This year’s roster includes Peter London of the Peter London Global Dance Company for Miami, Jenna Lee of the English National Ballet for London, Eartha Robinson of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for Los Angeles, Kevin Iega Jeff of the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater for Chicago, Gregory Maqoma of the Vuyani Dance Theatre (and featuring Dance for All) for Cape Town, Mourad Merzouki of Compagnie Kafig for Paris, Aubrey Lynch of the Harlem School of the Arts for New York, and Stephen Page of the Bangarra Dance Theatre for New South Wales.

Philadelphia Dance Community Celebration: Nothing Yet

Although Philadelphia is not on the roster of cities for “Dance The Dream”, our local dance community still has time to celebrate “I Have A Dream.” The Philadelphia dance community is known for its innovative, socially-conscious artists. The city is overflowing with dance companies and independent artists at various stages of their careers. There is no reason why our local dance community cannot come together for a day of celebration and dreaming! In fact, the 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream” on August 28 may be the perfect time for a city-wide dance celebration. This is the week before the city goes into FringeArts mode for the month of September.

Now that we are aware of the 50th Anniversary and have a global example for celebration, how will the Philadelphia dance community celebrate? Here are just 5 of my ideas:

  1. City-wide dance flash mobs featuring professional and recreational dancers moving to audio recordings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech
  1. An open forum discussion (with refreshments) where members of the dance community discuss what the 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream” means to them
  1. A video with local dance professionals answering one question: “How are you dancing the dream?”
  1. City-wide dance improvisation jams taking place to audio recordings of “I Have A Dream”
  1. Beginning the process of naming August 28 as “Philadelphia Dance Dream Day”

With just one month left before “I Have A Dream” turns a quarter of a century, I am convinced that our city can still do something to celebrate this major occasion. Having a city-wide dance celebration for “I Have A Dream” would be inspiring for the community. It would also be a fun way to end the summer and usher in a dance-filled fall. A city-wide celebration would also promote local dance groups and artists that participate. What do we have to lose?

Please share your ideas on how Philadelphia can celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech on August 28, 2013!


About Roger Lee

Roger Lee is a nationally published dance journalist whose work has appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine College Guide, Dance USA/e-journal, The Dance Enthusiast, The Dance Journal, Dance Advantage, Broad Street Review, and His self-published writing includes the e-books Your Freelance Artist Advantage (2016) and Overcoming Dance Fear (2014) and the Roger Lee Arts Blog for artist career tips and interviews. Roger's dance teaching credits include Joffrey Ballet School, Broadway Dance Center, The Rock School for the Dance Education, Koresh School of Dance, Joan Myers Brown's Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Eastern University, and Ursinus College. In 2012, he founded the Roger Lee Dance Company that went on to perform for Philadanco's Founders Day Concerts, WaWa Welcome America Festival, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Roger earned his Master's Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University and Bachelor's Degree in Dance and Media & Communication Studies from Ursinus College.

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