Girard College hosts 'Be Holding' based on award-winning poem inspired by iconic Dr. J layup

BySteph Walton WPVI logo
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Girard College hosts Be Holding based on Dr. J layup, May 31-June 3
The world premiere of 'Be Holding' takes center court in the Armory at Girard College May 31-June 3.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The world premiere of 'Be Holding' takes center court in the Armory at Girard College.

'Be Holding' was co-created by poet Ross Gay and its director, Brooke O'Harra.

Gay describes it as a multi-genre, "collaborative performance." It uses a poem that he wrote also called 'Be Holding.'

O'Harra says it looks at Black flight and Black genius through a transcendent move by Julius Erving.

Gay calls Dr. J one of his heroes and his award-winning poem is inspired by a three-second move Erving made in the 1980 NBA finals. He says many consider it the best layup in the history of the NBA.

He says he takes that moment of "almost unfathomable, imagination and genius," and then veers off into other historical and familial places.

Two poet laureates, David Gaines and Yolanda Wisher, share the text during the performance.

O'Harra says when the poets perform, it's almost like tossing the ball since one poet will throw a line to the other.

Gay says the refrain of the poem talks about how we might be holding each other or how we regard one another, but that it also meditates on other kinds of flight.

O'Harra says Dr. J had captivated the entire crowd with his move, which also shows, how we're all together.

Girard College students are involved in the production, both on stage and behind the scenes.

"It's fun and kind of moving to have the kids participating," says Gay.

Composer Tyshawn Sorey creates an improvisational musical framework that Yarn/Wire performs.

"They don't have any notes written down," says O'Harra. "So they're all moving around the space and responding to each other."

Director Brooke O'Harra is a fellow 76ers fan and Gay's longtime friend. She says throughout the performance, Gay keeps coming back to these kinds of narratives that we're holding.

"How are we looking at Black folks? How are we looking at relations?" she says.

O'Harra says the audience will go on a journey throughout the performance.

"And I hope people just see themselves in it," she says.

'Be Holding' runs May 31 through June 3 at Girard College.

Be Holding - Meditating on Black Genius, Justice, and Joy | Tickets

Girard College

2101 S. College Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19121