ART on THE MART, is the largest digital art projection in the world, displaying contemporary art across its 2.5-acre façade along the Chicago Riverwalk.  

Its newest installation, a collaboration with the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, will be projected nightly at 9:00 p.m. from July 6 to Sept. 13. Told in three acts, “The Big Bang: Movement Theory + The Black Dancing Body” is described to be a 15-minute dynamic visual event that draws connections between Black dance and its influence on the broader American and global cultures.

The projection features artists from 10 diverse Chicago dance companies, ranging from footwork to ballet, and music by Chicago’s own DJ Duane Powell, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sam Thousand, and house DJ and producer Steve “Miggedy” Maestro.

“The statement that we’re trying to make is that from the beginning of time, if we look at the beginning of civilization… people of African descent have been here. We’re not new,” said Princess Mhoon, director of the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project. “We’ve danced since the beginning of time, even when we couldn’t hold on to our cultural retentions, when we came to the new world, we still danced. Dance has been a form of protest. What I think we’re trying to say is, how do we unpack all of this history?”

The Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project is a service organization that seeks to celebrate the historic impact of Chicago-based Black choreographers on the national dance community, and strengthen the impact and reach of Black dance.  


The TRiiBE got a chance to talk to Chatham-raised Mhoon, who currently splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Mhoon is a second generation artist who grew up with a mom who danced and a father who was a musician and visual artist. Through her work, Mhoon combines the skills she’s accumulated over her lifetime to help advance and sustain the legacy of Black dance.

Chicago Black Dance Legacy displayed on The Mart downtown Chicago
Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, Courtesy of ART on THE MART

“It’s kind of a homecoming, this work. And my way of saying thank you for everything that Chicago and Black dance in Chicago has done for me,” Mhoon said.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The TRiiBE: So I would like to know more about you. Tell us about Princess Mhoon.

Princess Mhoon: So, really, in truth, a part of my journey was that I know all of these companies. My parents were founding members of two of them. Out of the first eight companies and the first cohort, I had performed,trained, choreographed or danced with five of them. I have an undergrad degree in dance from Howard University. I got my master’s degree in history, and my research focus was on Black dance. So really, I had always wanted to come back to Chicago to document the history. So when someone called me with this opportunity [to be the director of the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project], it was kind of a synthesis or a culmination of all my skills. I [own] a dance institute here in Washington, D.C., they’re celebrating 13 years. So I have that business acumen. 

Could you give us some history on the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project?

The main thing that we do is support Black dance companies and organizations in Chicago. So I guess you could say we’re a service organization. But the model is kind of a training and cohort-based model. We do four things. The first one is capacity building. The second one is advocacy. The third is archiving. The last one is presenting. With those four, we hope to achieve a number of things through the program. 

The capacity building is to help the companies. We advocate for them for higher pay, for more opportunities, for more funding opportunities, for equity and equal access. We have an archive project. That means we’re helping to build the collections of these companies, so that the history is not lost. And that has been a huge aspect of the project, because a lot of the history has been lost. And a lot of the reasons why these companies aren’t valued the way they should be is because there’s not a lot of historical data that can be traced and understood by historians, or even really understood by people who hold the power. We create opportunities for these companies to share the stage together to reach broader audiences and to cross market.

For those who may not know, what is Art on THE MART? Could you elaborate on that and on who initiated this collaboration with the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project?

Art on THE MART is the largest outdoor digital art installation in the world. It is projections — whether they’re film, or  whether they’re animation — that happen on the side of the Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago. As a part of our advocacy component, I’m always looking at strategic relationships to help bring these Black dance companies into the fold of conversations that they would not otherwise be able to be a part of. 

2022 was the year of Chicago dance. And at that particular point, I helped us get a partnership with the City [of Chicago] to become a partner for that year and help really plan and offer a voice for the Black dance community on what we needed and how we could raise visibility for those BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color]  organizations. 

One of the things that came out of that was sitting on the selections panel for the 2022 projections for the Year of Chicago dance. So I sat on that panel and helped collect and curate whoever was a finalist for being selected. And with that relationship, the curator and I started to discuss.

Princess Mhoon. Photo by Patrick Orr.

Could you tell us about some of the Black-owned dance companies featured in “The Big Bang: Movement Theory + The Black Dancing Body?”

So there’s multiple layers to like the creative team. The original music collaboration is between three well-known Chicago DJs and music artists: one is DJ Dwayne Powell. The second one is Sam Thousand. Then, Steve “Miggidy” Maestro. They all worked with me to create original music. 

All of the choreography is coming from 10 dance companies. And they range from African dance, to jazz, to modern, to tap and footwork. So the companies are the Muntu Dance Theatre, the Hiplet Ballerinas. There is Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, The Era Footwork Collective, Forward Momentum, The Joel Hall Dancers, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Move Me Soul, the NAJWA Dance Corps, and Praize Productions. So they would all be credited as the choreographers for this film.

Why is “The Big Bang: Movement Theory + The Black Dancing Body” an important story to tell?

The subtext is movement theory, plus the Black dancing body. The statement that we’re trying to make is that from the beginning of time, if we look at the beginning of civilization, those oldest bones in Ethiopia, “Lucy” they’re calling them, that people of African descent have been here. We’re not new. We’ve danced since the beginning of time, even when we couldn’t hold on to our cultural retentions.  When we came to the new world, we still danced. Dance has been a form of protest, a physical reclamation, even when we don’t own our own bodies. 

With this projection,  what I think we’re trying to say is, how do we unpack all of this history? [It’s not just] Black history, It’s the history of people, the history of the human race. How do we share that message? [We] make sure people understand that this existence that we have is not without dance, and it’s not an afterthought. It’s not separate from anything that we’re all doing together.

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.