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Hettie Barnhill is a Filmmaker, Director, Choreographer, and the founder of ‘Create A Space NOW’ an interactive social platform that uses performing arts and multimedia to further discussion around #blacklivesmatter and the recent events and race relations in America. Her film, A Love Letter to Brian, Lesley, and Michelle has been selected and awarded in festivals currently showing nationally and internationally, and honored by the California Senate with the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, “Using Film as a Vehicle For Community Engagement and Education” by Congressman Ro Khanna and California Senator Bob Wieckowski. Hettie also has been nominated for New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Choreography and has performed nationally, and internationally on Broadway in the productions “Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark”, Tony Award-winning “FELA!" (original cast), and the Tony award-nominated “Leap Of Faith” (original cast).


As an educator, Hettie has taught at several Colleges and Universities, sharing her love for dance and exploring how to create spaces where form and technique are being learned, perspective is being shared, culture is being experienced, and history is being discussed. In addition, she has worked as a Visiting Artist-In-Residence in Dance at Skidmore College in Saratoga, NY, a Visiting Ass. Professor of Theater and Dance at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, and Stephens College in Columbia, MO. She has also been a Guest Artist at the University Of Rochester, Suny Potsdam, Suny Brockport, Suny New Paltz, and Sam Houston State University. Hettie graduated from Columbia College Chicago and is currently earning her  MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, Performance Creation Concentration focusing on Art and Activism, from Goddard College. 


Using art as therapy, Hettie has received awards for her outreach and service in communities, including; The NAACP's "Top 21 Leaders 40 & Under Award" In The Fields Of Arts & Culture, Twice Honored As A "Rising Star" By The Young & Powerful For Obama Group, The Shirley Chisholm "Women Of Excellence." Since 2006, Hettie has worked with A Long Walk Home Inc., a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to document, educate and bring about social change for survivors of rape and violence.



Movement is my first language and I use it to create work stemming from my reflection as a Black, queer woman. Choosing a life in the arts is how I am adding perspective to a field that desperately needs more representation. Making art that reflects my existence is not just my passion, it is my activism. The work itself is a protest because of where it originates from.


My work is in  Dance, Music, and Theater arts mediums. These disciplines have never been separate from me and have more in common with each other than not. The intersection of these art forms ignites innovation, proficiency, and a strong foundation that is needed to adapt to the ever-changing world of performance-based work. I believe art should be visceral, transformative, authentic, and inclusive, I strive to have my pedagogy, choreography, direction, and performance be created in this trajectory. Fueled by the many artists that have paved the way for me to feel flight, I have a continuous priority to grow and cultivate relationships within communities to share resources that hopefully increase opportunities to present, fund, and teach the concepts I am embodying. My work lives at the intersection of art and activism.


Let's talk about it…


I aim to instill a sense of the presence of movement in my dance technique courses. The movement quality, teaching, and training are derived from Afro-Contemporary Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Musical Theatre Dance. While my training is across the board my focus and expertise are teaching movements of the African Diaspora. Decentering the eurocentric standard of dance technique and recentering the history of movement of West African, Caribbean, and Black social dance in the theory of modern, jazz, and hip hop styles, forms, and meanings. Whether teaching these techniques and styles individually or fusing them together, attention is focused on incorporating challenging compositions and designs to develop a conceptual awareness of space, time, and musicality.

My classroom structure aims to enhance motor skills, and condition the body for strength, coordination, endurance, and flexibility.  Integrating non-traditional exercises to prepare the student to execute combinations and retain the information taught in class.




The work was created in Spoleto, Italy at La MaMa Umbria International. A process-based experience, loosely inspired by the play The Island by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona and films; I Am Not Your Negro, by James Baldwin,  A Love Letter to Brian Lesley, and Michelle, by Hettie Barnhill and  To Sir, with Love, by James Clavell.  Both the play and films were used as source material for students to begin thinking about how ‘race’ is used in these art mediums. My work continued with exercises to enhance ensemble building, asking the students to reflect through physical movement. Gesturing based on the reactions that they had from the source material. There were daily movement workshops to warm their bodies up and Movement work that consisted of structured improv. My goal was to keep the work energizing and for them to connect their lived experience to the topics of race and injustice. 


Hettie Barnhill- Filmmaker, Director, Writer, and Choreographer, 

Robert Gertler - Filmmaker, Sound Designer

A Love Letter to BLM is the result of human beings coming together, diverse in age, sexuality, race, and gender, talking with their bodies, minds, and souls, about Black lives. An interactive and experimental commentary that leaves the viewers looking inward, seeking justice from within. This is a film, a play, an experience, a concert dance, a work of art, a self-reflection, a protest.


“I passed the brown paper bag test,” he said…

In some ways, the laws of Jim Crow are very much the fine print of today's reality. The focus of this work was anti-blackness, racism, and colorism.  Stemming from the shades of skin that were used as a symbol of hate. I approached movement and the music composition by dividing the piece into three sections: Purpose and Transparency. Weight and Heaviness. Levity and Activation.

Choreography and Orignal Music by:Hettie Barnhill 

Full Credits upon request.


A series of photographs from the CREATE A SPACE NOW campaign and LIVE theatrical show.

The following photos are a commentary on the many social issues this production touches on.

In this gripping performance Directed by Hettie Barnhill, art imitates life. It holds a mirror to the audience and challenges the viewer through dance, film, and text to reflect upon themselves and their presence within the everyday narratives that are presented to them via social media, television, newspapers, politics, family, and first-hand encounters. The tension of everyday life and the experiences of black and brown people are brilliantly woven together in ways that have yet to be seen on stage. Theatre-goers are left to decide if they will be active in the fight for this generation's civil rights or if they will simply sit on the sidelines.


“Power, knowledge, and truth stemming from art.” -  Peter Lam

“It’s not about whether or not you are black. It is about continuing

  the conversation until it gets so loud, so contagious, that the only

  possible outcome, is change.” -  Lauren Schofield


“It’s honest, raw, powerful, and necessary.” -  Christine Grounds


“This is where humanity lies.” -  Bianca Golden

Debuted In Rochester's 2019 Fringe Festival

The Fielding Stage At Geva Theatre Center

Photography by MOKM Creative Services




My Black freedom is the unbothered white man's threat.

My Black life has to be fought for.

There was one portrait in particular, of an enslaved Black woman that I could not stop looking at. Her body, sitting, properly placed. Hands, one on top of the other. Her head positioned not to face directly towards the camera but tilted off to the side. She was dressed beautifully. Adorned with layers of fabric from head to feet, resting upon a table with nothing else surrounding her.

This photo was not her reality. This was not who she was. Everything about the photo was a lie, except for her eyes. A distant stare. Her eyes, had no flicker in them, glazed over. As if she had stared at pain for too long and her tears could no longer be produced.

So, I cried for her.

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