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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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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Local Dance Showcase

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a lecture/performance demonstration at the Lincoln Theatre. Assistant Professors Crystal Michelle Perkins and Dr. Nyama McCarthy-Brown gave us an inside look into their research areas and the influences of identity, life experiences, spirituality, community involvement, and race interact with their creative and scholarship practices. The night began with both women performing a small duet together. Seeing them both perform in their movement styles allowed me to see a new layer of them that isn’t always seen in the classroom/studio setting. Both women moved with grace and drew me into the intimate duet.

After the duet finished Dr. McCarthy-Brown showed a small video about the creative work she does with her son that speaks to the themes of being a single Black mother raising a Black son. Her work focuses closely on her relationship with her son and the exploration his life growing up as a Black man in America. The scholarship side of Dr. McCarthy-Brown’s research is about inclusive pedagogy for a diverse world. She read an excerpt from her book speaking to the personal experiences she faced in the dance studio and how they shaped her outlook to learning dance. I thoroughly enjoyed how open and vulnerable she made herself in order to speak on these topics. In my opinion, someone showing that they have dealt with certain problems makes it easier for others to connect with them. Dr. McCarthy-Brown allowed us into her life experiences and creative process so we could understand the intentions and meanings behind her research.

IMG_2820Next Professor Perkins presented two excerpts of choreographic work she created for Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Along with video presentations of the work, she had two company members demonstrate some of the movement to give us background information on specific gestures, hand positions, and musical choices. I’ve been working with Professor Perkins this semester for the 50th Anniversary Dance Concert at The Ohio State University, so we’ve conversed about some of the African diaspora influences in her work. However, being able to see the physical representations of it through the company members and the films shown I was able to clearly see those references and how they all work together.

Overall, I enjoyed attending this lecture/performance demonstration. This showcase allowed me to visually see the creative and academic work that my professors are making. This experience has built upon my idea of research and all the possibilities within it. Research isn’t just limited to academic writing, it involves choreographic works, film-making, community outreach, and so much more. The many choices and paths that can be taken in the world of dance makes me love it even the more.

 

The Black Experience: Black Performance Theory

Black Performance Theory

Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez collaborate on a collection of writings that capture the essence of black performance. Spanning the fields of music, dance, and theatrical performances, this book focuses on the understanding of performance using historical references and the connection of one’s identity to their lineage and environment.

Black performance theory is a culmination of writings that articulate the necessity of black performance decoding. Speaking to the individuality of blackness in an evolving world, the essays navigate the complexities of the black identity while unraveling the web of politics, history, and power that comprise black performance. They analyze the work of Zora Neale Hurston and her theories of black performance methodology linking the individuality of contemporary choreographers to their spiritual Africanist practices. Whether depicting the black movement as spaceships, the use of activism art, or the invigorating music of Little Richard, this gathering of artists and scholars creates a place to meld analytical and personal experiences of black performance.

Chapter five of Black Performance Theory, uncovers the world of theatrical lynching’s and the retaliation of African-American authors and playwrights to maintain an upstanding image of their race. Despite the horrendous tragedies that were showcased, “creative work produced during adversity is not solely a response to outside sources; it is an attempt to safeguard community perspectives” (DeFrantz 2014, 88).  Using life experiences as art, writers performed, rejecting negative portrayals viewed during theatrical lynching’s, and uncovered the proof of black humaneness and success. Using the stage as a platform for enlightenment, not just entertainment, allowed for strategic intervention of black artist’s and the examination of cultural realism.

Theorizing black performance is a complicated task, yet is necessary to understand the black experience thoroughly. Black Performance Theory summons fascinating thoughts about the conception of the identity and its desire for belonging or finding oneself. It also shows how black performance is directly linked to personal sensations and the sense of community involvement that dictates creative choices.

 

 

 

 

References

DeFrantz, Thomas, and Anita Gonzalez. 2014 “Black-Authored Lynching Drama’s Challenge to Theater History.” Black Performance Theory, edited by Koritha Mitchell, 87-98. Durham: Duke University Press.

Repetition & Minimalism

My Music and Composition Professor tasked me with making a repetition study using minimalist composers. I chose a piece by Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians: Section I. The creation of this study allowed me to explore a new part of my choreographic practice. I found myself moving in a completely different way than I’m used to, however it felt natural. When I performed the study and got feedback, I realized my lack of stillness within the study. This made me reflect, and I realized I enjoy being in constant motion when moving. However, with the assignment being repetition, the use of stillness would allow for viewers to fully see my gestures and be able to digest them. If I continue this study I will infuse the use of stillness and allow for the movement to develop organically.

Analyzing Movement Excerpt

In my History, Theory, and Literature of Analyzing Movement Class we were tasked with creating our own definition of choreographic analysis. Here is an excerpt from the paper I wrote.

 

When I began thinking about the definition of choreographic analysis, I had to first reminisce on my own artistic life and experiences. I was immediately transported back to my childhood, creating liturgical dances with my mother in our living room. There was such expression, narrative, and meaning behind the movement that I didn’t notice before.  Once that initial sense of warmth and comfort left me, I began to think more deeply about the word’s choreographic analysis and its relationship to the world and the articles I had read. My provisional definition of choreographic analysis is the process of examining the lineage and meaning behind specific movement choices, to determine points of origin that corelate to a maker’s choreographic voice.

In my opinion, the most crucial portion of a choreographer’s lineage is the technique they work within. According to Marcel Mauss, a French sociologist, technique is “an action which is effective and traditional” (2006, 82). The aspect of tradition is apparent in all codified techniques, pulling inspiration from religion, geography, and culture. This allows for the practice to stay authentic. Now technique is a vital part of a choreographer’s history that is depicted as their language. It speaks to specific choreographic choices that deal with weight shifts, use of space, or even overall themes of the work being created. “Technique, like language, reaches out to meet us, to envelop us, to structure our lives and relationships, and indeed to make life possible, from the moment we are born” (Spatz 2015, 49). Choreography is a physical statement that holds the passions and the voice of the creator within it. The technique allows the movement to speak to the viewers with a vocabulary that is able to be understood, or not.

With the experiences of the choreographer on display, the formation of the habitus is able to be discovered. “A habitus, understood as a system of lasting, transposable dispositions which, integrating past experiences, functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions, appreciations, and actions and makes possible the achievement of infinitely diversified tasks,” (Bourdieu 1977, 83). A maker pulls inspiration from every aspect of their life and incorporates that into the work they create. This means that depending upon certain training, interactions with other artists, or teaching techniques, there will be a variance in the experiences of those in the same class. Class is dependent upon the shared environment of a group of individuals. This doesn’t necessarily mean these events occurred for each person in the same chronological order; however, they are shared experiences. These qualities bring a diversity of movement, points of view, and aesthetics that make for a unique viewing experience. Having this background information allows for a holistic approach to the choreographer and the corresponding choices they make when creating choreography and analyzing it.