Movement Exploration: Spirituality vs. Ideology

For my composition class assingment that was focused on site-specific work, I wanted to explore my connection to religion and spirituality. I grew up in a Black southern Baptist church, so it is engraved in my DNA. However, as queer woman, I don’t agree with some of the ideological ways of thinking. So for this assignment, I decided to investigate how traces of the Baptist church still resonate within me. Is it possible to have a spiritual connection, even though the religion explicitly casts me out? How do I begin to understand the effects of this conflict of interest has within my moving body?

The link to video is below!

Hum

Choreographed & edited by: Davianna G

Music created & edited by: Davianna G

 

Quarantine: Day 24

When I left for my study abroad trip to Brazil on February 29th, I never could have imagined the state of the country I would return to. Over the course of those fifteen days, the virus that seemed so small shook the Earth to its core. When I returned to the states toilet paper was out of stock and hoarded as if a natural disaster was about to make landfall, all cleaning products had been bought from the shelves, medical masks had become the new fashion trend, and all of my graduate courses had been moved online for the remainder of the semester. I was in a state of confusion with unclear direction for the first week of self quarantining in my apartment alone. This resulted in many snacks and Netflix binges to pass the time.

After taking that week to just waddle in nothingness, I had to pull myself together and try to regain some sense of schedule. I knew that even though the world is an even stranger place than it normally is, I had tasks and work that still had to be completed. No longer being able to go to the gym or take movement classes, at home workouts and walks in the park have become necessary survival activities to get my endorphines pumping and not feel like a potato. I’ve contemplated getting a puppy, but that’s just my impulsiveness bubbling up. I’m still considering it tho. Getting accustomed to only virtual human contact has taken some getting used to. However, the weekly zoom happy hour calls with my cohort have made this quarantine time a lot more bearable. Being alone in my apartment has created a lot more time for me to think about my future plans when it comes to what happens after grad school? Is someone going to hire me? Will I have to work three jobs simultaneously? Can I live as a solo artist? Where will I live? Can I afford to move? All of these are great questions that usually fill me with anxiety, so I stop thinking about them all together. Saving those for another day and time.

I don’t really know what the purpose of this post was. Maybe just to write and reflect on these last 24 days. Or maybe to try and understand how I’ve been navigating this mental and physical minefield of quarantine. Either way, this is the most I’ve written since February 28th. I’m proud of myself, I should do this again sometime.

 

Summer Creative

For the past few weeks myself and two colleagues have been in the process of making a work about our experience of being black women. We have been interested in experimenting through movement our black female identity.  During this past semester we took a course called Black Dance Continuum, which considers the black continuum in American dance as it has developed in the United States from the antebellum era to the present. During the course, we noticed the absence of black female choreographers and their stories in the history of black dance. So this summer we have come together to add our experiences to the continuum of black dance. A poem by Danielle Horton, Letter To My Future Daughter, have been words that have guided this process. The link to the poem is below.

Letter to My Future Daughter…

By the end of the summer we hope to complete this process with a video presentation. Here is a first little draft of the process within the studio.

 

‘No matter how far a person can go, the horizon is still way beyond you’ – Zora Neale Hurston

The end of my first year of graduate school has come to an end and I’m reflecting on the experiences these last ten months have brought me. I began this journey unsure of myself, my abilities, and my place in graduate school. Transitioning from an undergraduate program to a graduate program was a hard shift, but doubts surrounding my age and professional experiences took a tool on me mentally. Luckily, I was blessed with a cohort that was supportive, and we helped each other through this transition into graduate school. Over this first year I’ve accomplished so much and gained confidence in my artistic practice, and gained lifelong friends.

One major hurdle I’ve overcome this year is my fear of public speaking. Unlike undergraduate classes, most classes are discussion based and require verbal interactions. For me, this format was equivalent to me hanging from a cliff by my finger tips. I felt so exposed and vulnerable every class. I was also nervous when it came to discussing theorist such as Foucault, Butler, and Lepecki (still don’t entirely understand it really). But as the semesters progressed and I became more IMG_0181comfortable with the class structure, it was easier to engage in conversation. Along with learning to extract the information that is important and relevant to my interests rather than trying to understand Phenomenology in one week. Along with participating in class discussion, we were required to present creative projects which I enjoyed, but also I had to lead the lecture which I absolutely didn’t enjoy before I experienced it. When preparing to lead the lecture I realized I had knowledge and a unique perspective that I could bring to the material. This assurance in myself allowed me to lead both lectures with confidence (and even get a job well done from my professor!). Having these moments to lead and put my ideas in the forefront assisted me when I was a panelist at the International Association of Blacks in dance conference. When myself and fellow colleagues spoke about our insight into graduate school as black women, I wasn’t nervous at all. Reflecting back, I’m appreciative of the times I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone over the course of this first year. Without that guidance, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my voice in or beyond the classroom.

Over the course of this year I’ve had the opportunity to perform, make, and collaborate with some awesome humans. I began the year in a work made by Crystal Michelle Perkins, Lush Departures, which challenged me physically and mentally the entire process. Working with her reinforced my interest in community building within the making process, as well as my love for rigorous big dancing. My participation in this work led me to be rehearsal director for the excerpt of the work performed at the International Association of Blacks in dance as well as working closely with Crystal (SHE IS GOALS). I was also able to perform a collaborative study from a composition class in the Winter Concert. As well as collaborating with two 2nd year MFA students beginning the process of their thesis projects. My year has been jammed packed, but I’ve enjoyed every opportunity to work creatively with professors and fellow graduate students(also helps me think about what my project may be, yikes!)

With the knowledge I’ve gained in the many facets of this graduate school journey I’ve begun to think more deeply about my research interests. I began my first year heavily focused on the Harlem Renaissance, but now I’m thinking more about the black women/artist place in society and dance. I recently wrote a paper, Reclaiming, Restoring, Reimagining: Cardi B, which was centered around the hyper sexualization of black female bodies in popular culture. I argued that Cardi B uses her body in performance, specifically her music video Money, as a site of personal agency, reclamation of sexuality, and the evolution of black female bodies in popular culture. While writing this paper I realized my passion for the black women, her story, and the ways in which she portrays herself creatively.

As I continue these next two years of graduate school I’m excited to continue to transform as a human and artists. This first year alone has shown me that there are no limits to my success, and I dictate my future. With the next year of grad school new challenges will appear such as project proposals, funding, and just general stress of life. However, being able to see the progress I’v already made, and having the support of faculty, my cohort family, friends, and my partner, the possibilities are limitless.

IABD EXPERIENCE

The last week of January I was fortunate to the attend the International Association of Blacks in Dance conference in Dayton, Ohio. The conference consisted of masterclasses, panel discussions, and performances ranging from middle school students to professional companies. Myself and three of my colleagues presented a panel called ‘Schoolin’ Life,’ a discussion about navigating Graduate School at predominately white institutions (PWI). We each spoke about our individual research goals and past and present projects. Individuals in the audience asked us questions allowing us to share our personal encounters to give context to the life of Black Graduate students at a PWI. I was grateful to be able to share and give advice to people of color who want to join the community of Black scholars.

Also while attending the conference myself and several BFA students performed in the collegiate concert. It was exciting to be dancing for a theatre full of people supporting and cheering you on the entire piece. This performance opportunity was also a chance for me to be the rehearsal director for the work, while also creating a deeper sense of community between myself and the undergraduate students.

Overall, attending IABD filled me mentally, spiritually, and physically. Interacting, networking, and performing with my Black family in dance encouraged and strengthened my love for this beautiful art form. I’m excited to visit this conference for many years to come.

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Semester Reflection

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The semester has come to an end and I can’t believe I’ve already finished my first semester of grad school. From August until now I’ve grown so much physically, mentally, and intellectually. I began this semester unsure of my abilities and my place in this new community, however I’ve come to understand myself more this semester. I’m thankful for my cohort and the strong bond we’ve created and the closeness that has developed. I’m normally a very private person, but I’ve began to share more of myself with those in my cohort. It has helped me to adapt to this new OSU community and assisted me with my self-care practices.

Over the course of this semester I’ve been introduced to some exciting things such as Photoshop and beginner film tools in our first year seminar class that I was hesitant about at first, but during the process it was actually fun to do. I also took a history, theory, and literature course that I was terrified about in the beginning. The analyzing movement course exposed me to an array of literature that covers multiple topics. From learning to forest read to creative assignments, my brain capacity was pushed to its limits. However now looking back at the semester, I’ve begun to think more deeply about choreographic origin and meaning, more than I did back in August. I’ve now had exposure to concepts that I’ve never considered when thinking about dance. Along with seminar classes I took Contemporary with Crystal Michelle Perkins and Ballet with Karen Elliot. Each class pushed my body physically and allowed me to reinvent how I take class. I enjoyed their teaching approaches and the freshness and joy that they brought to every class.

One semester is done and I’m still excited about this grad school journey. Everyday I’m continuously learning and being exposed to new information about myself and this dance world that I’m a part of. Over the course of this semester I’ve learned so much about myself as an artist and the work I want to be making. Grad school has allowed me the space to examine my life, the choices I make, and what dance means to me. I’m excited for what the next two and a half years have in store for me.

 

The Big 5-OH

Over the course of two weekends and eight shows, I was a part of the 50th Anniversary concert for the department of dance at The Ohio State University. It was such a pleasure to be immersed in the rich history and culture of this department I’m now included in. The concert was divided into fours works depicting the elements of space, flow, time, and weight. The work I performed in not only pushed me physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. The movement was vigorous and required attention to rhythms and the connection between the ensemble. But simultaneously, she was challenging our mental capacity of linking ourselves individually and as a collective to the lineage of the department. Even though this is only my first semester at OSU, I feel a strong attachment to those who came before me. Taking time during rehearsal to look at archival materials and see the work we are making now is built upon the principles and values of those that came before us was satisfying and enjoyable.

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WEEK 12

It’s week twelve of my first semester of grad school and I can’t believe how fast it has flown by. It feels like yesterday was August and I had just moved to Ohio. This semester has flooded my brain with information, theory, laughter, tears, friendship, and questioning. More than ever before I’m in constant conversation with myself about me as a human being. I think this is a constant question for every artist. We navigate and examine the world in its current state and create work that reflects that image and encompasses our own views, interests, or agenda’s. In my opinion, this is what grad school is about, at least for a dancer. We are noticing characteristics, themes, and important concepts in our work that we want to expand and research about. That notion has been the hardest for me to grasp. Since I’ve come straight out of undergrad I’m so used to completing assignments for grades and not to focus on my personal development. It’s week twelve and I’m still fighting that urge, but it’s becoming easier day by day.

 

I , Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100

Today my best friend and I visited the Columbus Museum of Art to view the special exhibition on the Harlem Renaissance. I myself was super excited because of my extreme interest in this specific time period and the hope and development it created for Black people after the Civil War. The name of the exhibit ” I, Too, Sing America” is from the opening line of a Langston Hughes poem I, Too. In this poem he announces the place of himself and Black Americans as citizens and creative people in this country. The exhibit itself navigates the creative activities that began in Harlem and spread across the United States in the coming years. The exhibit also focuses on Columbus specifically during the Harlem Renaissance and how that artistic movement in the north influenced the mid-western creative scene.

During my visit I came across some valuable books, artists, and activists that will assist in the development of my MFA project. I’ve been filled with so many ideas and I’m looking forward to my continued research into this beautiful time for the Black American. Here are some highlights of my trip! Enjoy!

P.S. THE MUSEUM HAS FREE ADMISSION EVERY SUNDAY!

https://www.columbusmuseum.org

 

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