BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – On election night, Ursula Smith was not keeping up with the latest updates on Birmingham’s mayoral race. She was doing something far more important: pretending to be a Power Ranger.
Smith was playing with her son, a blue Power Ranger, when she sat down to rest and saw her phone explode with the news: The dance video she had made and choreographed for Birmingham’s top civil servant had aired in one of the most important moments so far in Mayor Woodfin’s career.
Smith, the owner of Ursula Smith Dance in Birmingham, spoke extensively with CBS 42 on Thursday, giving us a behind-the-scenes interview about the origin and making of the video, which has been viewed thousands of times since its release. .
Little dance break before the final results:
“Essence” – the basic nature or most important quality of a person or thing. We all wear something that brings the very nature of who we are! And what better way to express this quality than through dance?! thank’s for @UrsulaDance… pic.twitter.com/DwBNDD39AF
— Randall Woodfin (@randallwoodfin) August 25, 2021
Ursula Smith grew up in East Lake and considers herself a true “Birmingham girl”.
She started dancing at a very young age – in kindergarten – but said she struggled to see herself represented in the discipline. She said she didn’t have the typical story of those who become professionals in the dance industry.
“Growing up – how I grew up, where I grew up – I didn’t really see, I was unable to identify, in something that I was so passionate about,” she said. “As a black girl growing up in Birmingham, I was full of energy. I knew I loved to move. I knew I loved to dance. But it wasn’t until I started to see it through different programs at school that I thought was possible.
Smith began participating in programs through school and her church, and it was this spark that helped her develop a passion for the arts.
“It helped shape and mold me to build something where I could provide a platform for girls and boys to come and develop their artistic expression,” she said.
She managed to bring this dream to life by opening her own studio, serving Magic City for 22 years.
Today, Ursula Smith and her dancing heritage are even more closely woven into the fabric of Birmingham’s culture and history. Smith’s video featuring Mayor Woodfin and Kendra Morris served as a strong signal Tuesday night that the city’s top politician was declaring a re-election victory.
The video, however, was not designed to serve that purpose, Smith said.
“I’m going to be honest,” she told CBS 42. “It really wasn’t an election video. Whether people know it or not, the mayor — he’s got an artist in him. He said ‘ Ursula, I love this song and I want to do something for this song.’
The video features the song “Essence” by WizKid, an African musician. It was the first Nigerian song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
“But it really had nothing to do with the election,” Smith said. “It wasn’t even his idea to make the video. It was mine. What I wanted to do was share the gift of art, of dance, of life, of happiness, of joy with the city of Birmingham: that’s something I saw in the mayor .
Mayor Woodfin originally asked Smith to help him create a dance to the song for himself, not for a video performance, she said. When she saw him perform, however, she asked permission to make a video.
“The effect it had, seeing him in a light where he embraces life and just embraces joy, I just wanted to share that with the city of Birmingham,” she said. “And he instructed me to do so.”
Smith said it only took one rehearsal for the mayor to learn the dance and another to perfect it.
Woodfin’s dance partner, Kendra Morris, had an even tougher job: doing the “smooth groove” of the heels.
“It was amazing working with Kendra. Both were eager to learn,” Smith said. “She’s another beautiful soul. She was so sweet. She came in and did her thing, and she had to doing it in heels. Kudos to her for that. Shout out to Kendra.
Morris even allowed Smith to choose the dress she wore in the video: “She trusted me enough to do that.”
In total, Woodfin and Morris rehearsed for three and a half hours, and filming lasted about two hours, Smith said.
The video begins with a shot rising from the ground to reveal the mayor and the city of Birmingham behind him.
“It was symbolic of Birmingham, Smith said. “What was, what is and what is to come.
Another shot shows Woodfin and Morris dancing outside the entrance to the Rotary Trail, the site of which Smith said “means so much history to Birmingham”.
As for the dance itself, Smith said it wasn’t about a specific genre, but the result of what she called “Ursula’s creativity.”
She said the dance was inspired by Afro-Cuban dance, bachata and line dancing.
“It’s a bit of a fusion of everything,” she says. “The groove was right. It was smooth.
When Smith took a break from Power Rangers and found the video was out, she didn’t even consider what it meant politically or electorally.
“I was super proud,” she said. “I didn’t even think about the elections.
Since the video was released, Smith said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
She said her email was “inundated” with words of encouragement and requests for classes and other services. On Thursday, Smith was still trying to respond to emails from Tuesday night.
In the end, she hopes the video will serve as a reminder to the citizens of Birmingham in these difficult times: “We have always been resilient. We’ve always been great. We have always won.
CBS 42 contacted the Woodfin campaign about the video, but a spokesperson declined to comment.