Dandelions in the Wind is the musical love story of an interracial couple caught up in the turbulent times of America’s Civil Rights era. The play's inspiration came from the racism that the playwright and her late husband experienced in the sixties and seventies. The message however is not limited to black-white racism. It is for all people separated by the rift of ignorance, hatred and bigotry.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The making of the musical
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC
These song samples were recorded live from the stage during the 2017 Canadian premiere.
Photo credit: Seanna Kennedy
"DANDELIONS IN THE WIND is my life's work. It encompasses so much of the emotion that I experienced during the sixties and seventies as a young white woman married to a young black man. Keith was attacked by Skinheads in the UK, left on the pavement with a severely fractured skull. He made what we thought was a full recovery and we moved to Canada looking for a safe place to raise our mixed-race children, but shortly after our arrival he died... shockingly... unexpectedly... a complication from the earlier head injury. I was five months pregnant with our third child.
"More than three decades have not faded the image that was seared onto my soul the day of the funeral: our three-year-old clutching dandelions she had picked for her daddy, the October sun transforming the lowly weeds into filigree globes of silver, and her curls into a halo of gold. The funeral had taught her that flowers mean 'I love you', but she was perplexed as to how to give them to her father. I blew some of the parachutes heavenwards. She watched them float back to earth, her bottom lip trembling. And then she said, 'If I think really hard, can I think the flowers to daddy?'' " - Jennifer Dance
DANDELIONS IN THE WIND brings the history of racism and civil rights into a modern format. Music varies from spoken word to slave chants, and from gospel songs to toe-tapping dance numbers. Images from the Civil Rights era create a changing backdrop for the events unfolding on stage, but the underlying question is “Where are we now...today?"
Image: Keith and Jennifer, 1971
KJ GROUP is a Theatre Arts group whose mission is to create knowledge, understanding and compassion on issues that relate to justice and equality in today's world. Our mandate is to use excellent entertainment to both educate and touch hearts, creating positive change by inspiring individuals to simply do better. Our vision bridges the rift between ethnicity, culture and faith, breaks racial stereotypes and promotes healing and equality. KJ Group has a heart for youth, as both performers and audience. Young people will change the world.
DANDELIONS in the WIND premiered in Toronto during Black History month of 2017. Funds are now being organized and plans consolidated to move the show forward in 2019-2020. Although the show is for all ages from 10 to 100, our focus is on youth. We are particularly interested in having educators move alongside us. If you would like to be part of this amazing journey please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Dance is an award-winning author of books for young people. She frequently speaks at schools where students are reading her books, inspiring the new generation to stand up for justice and equality, and fight to make the world a better place. With Dandelions in the Wind she returns to her roots of black-white racism, digging deep through the pain of her past to create the characters of Sarah and Ben.
Canada Council for the Arts has recognized Jennifer's creative writing ability by awarding her a prestigious grant to work on her latest novel for young people: an Alzheimer's story.
Jennifer was nominated as a Woman of Excellence in the J.S. Woodsworth Awards for Human Rights and Equity, and is honoured to have received the 2016 Senior Achievement Award from the Government of Ontario.
Kesha Wint is the founder and president of QW Productions whose mission is to provide outstanding and professional entertainment in a classy and nostalgic atmosphere, while providing a platform for artists and musicians to showcase their musical gifts. She aims to educate both the public and upcoming artists on the importance of “real” music and why it needs to be kept alive.
Kesha is a graduate from the jazz program at Humber College, and has performed with well-known musicians in many parts of Asia, Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. Currently living in the GTA, she is well established in the tight-knit music industry. She is a phenomenal and expressive vocalist who also inspires others to live out their dreams.
Using potent, sometimes brutal images from the era as a backdrop to the story unfolding onstage, Dandelions in the Wind offers an honest and at times heartbreaking assessment of how far we still have to go before true equality is achieved. Given the dignity and peaceful demeanour of the Alabama bus boycott protesters, the violent response of their oppressors is doubly shocking and the play forcefully reminds you of the dangers of complacency in a world that is, once again, becoming increasingly hostile to immigrants and minorities.
With a score that ranges from slave chants to gospel songs, the show also has its moments of humour and empathy, including the beautifully-drawn bond between two fast friends, one black and one white, who refuse to be cowed by the ignorance and hatred of their racist neighbours. It was a fitting addition to Black History Month events and a reminder that we can never afford to be complacent
- Kate Gilderdale, Stouffville Free Press
The feedback from students was overwhelming, they absolutely loved the play! They particularly enjoyed the aspect of connecting history with the current events of today's political climate, highlighting how discrimination is still evident. They enjoyed the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement, and putting context to civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Students expressed that they were able to empathize more to the Civil rights activists as opposed to just learning about them via a traditional classroom setting. Students were moved by the fight and pain derived from a 'true life' story, particularly Jennifer's story, and felt a sense of empowerment via the collective stance.
- Natalie Lapko, Teacher: Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, Teacher, Toronto District School Board
A fantastic learning experience for my students and myself … the students were touched by the play and many were moved emotionally to tears. As an educator I liked the fact that the message was blunt, in your face and it was undeniable. And to know that this was in part Jennifer Dance's life story ... it took away the opportunity for people to say that it's just a story and that it wouldn't happen in real life. The message is an important one for students to see and experience
- Careen Thompson, Teacher, Emery Collegiate Institute, Toronto District School Board.
I brought my grade 7 classes to see the show. It truly helped them understand some of the social challenges that have been part of the black experience. We had so much rich discussion on issues of social justice - racism, prejudice, segregation .... and what to do about it - advocate, protest, educate, accept. Amazing experience!
- Brandy Henry, Teacher, Thomas L Wells PS, Scarborough, Toronto District School Board
"I really enjoyed the play. I also learned a lot of history. Now I will strive to make the world a better place any way I can. I will try to help more people because the play made me realize something, something important about people and how we should treat them. With love!"
"Dandelions in the Wind was breathtaking and I was deeply touched, in fact certain parts had tears welling in my eyes. My mind is just boggled."
"The play was immensely thought-provoking and meaningful. It gave me a completely different perspective. There were scary moments, enlightening scenes, deep sayings, and encouraging moments. I was educated in an unusual way. "
"It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget … an emotional roller-coaster with a heartfelt message. I learned that everyone is equal and different, but to embrace who they are and not be afraid."
"We talked about social issues in class, then we saw this play, and now I understand more ... Judging people is not right because everyone is a human and should have equal rights, everyone should have a voice. Watching this play improves people by changing the way they think about others."
"It really made me think about how bad racism is … makes me want to make a difference… made me emotional."
"It was like I was really there!"