Black. and Disabled. and Dancing. We keep moving. together. through Art. in Community.
Nearly 1 in 5 folks in America have a disability. Intersect that recent statistic with the racializing that impacts us all, and we are in for a profound convergence. A powerful moment to recognize the strength within these communities through thoughtful discussions socially and creatively.
Join us in the deepening of this conversation. Please support this new work intersecting race and disability. A suite of solos and a duet illuminating how we move and are moved by others.
the stories we’ll share…through the dances we’ll create.
in this process of developing what the body knows, through the reflection of documenter Nikki Bruce’s photography, we found that each image offered compelling insight into this emerging work; into how these two bodies (Jerron Herman and myself) are discovering how to be in conversation with the two intersecting “bodies” the work seeks to explore -the body racialized and the body disabled. through our coexistence and commitment to make visible these intersections, we are making movement that speaks to the beauty of these bodies coming together.
and through the support of this campaign…the story will deepen…
it’s been a couple of months since i’ve posted on here. most presently, i’ve been creating new dance…
it’s been incredibly rewarding. and humbling..
recently Jerron Herman, Francine Sheffield came from New York and Phanuel Antwi traveled from Canada, to join me in a 10 day intensive development process for the emerging choreographic project what the body knows– a suite of solos and a duet focused on the complex intersection and intertwining legacies of disability and race.
within this creative period i was also joined by local artists Sadie Woods, Nikki Bruce to respectively document the process and collaborate on the sound design. the focus was on a duet to build with Jerron as my co-performer and Francine holding space for us to delve into the conversation between our bodies. both black. both men. both disabled. self-identifying with those aspects of ourselves. shared experiences yet distinct ways of navigating the ways those identities impact our lives. we’ve never dance together before. this was our introduction to understanding how we might do that. and, from this exploration and rigorous process, carry emerges. and the process continued…
consultants in audio description and American Sign Language joined us, as a means to explore how these noted ways of offering access could be integrated within my evolving creative aesthetic. we grew to better understand how and why we would carry each other. the many forms of carry, carrying legacies we don’t want to hold onto. carrying memories we will keep close to us through the cycle of our lives. the passing of information between two men existing in the intergenerational continuum. the symbolism and metaphors of being carriers of the systemic perceptions and oppression of black men. and the power harnessed from the union of our disabled bodies in solidarity and thoughtful exchange. inside this deeply embodied exchange, being in conversation with Jerron opened up discoveries that could only be shared through the beauty of dancing together.
and then we shared this process with others. intimately drawing folks into the folds of what we discovered while in residence at Rebuild Foundation’s Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative studio…and they watched us in duet, carry each other and be carried. and they shared with us what that meant to them. and we listened….
i’m still taking in all that was shared, exchanged, discussed. and i’m learning more and more what it means to collaborate. to be open. to be vulnerable. to hold space for others. to allowing myself to be held…
this is what the body knows. this is an ongoing process of discovering what the body does know.
i learned immediately that this project’s vision is larger than one person. it takes a community.
so thankful for what each one of these artists brought to the space, to the many folk who contributed to ensuring there was an opportunity to engage profoundly in the development phase of what the body knows…and to the folk who witnessed the intimate showing this past May 3rd at DAHC.
and it will take the larger community’s support in order to most deeply engage in the producing of this project’s culminating phase… which is why i’ve launched a campaign!
with this support –
soon will come the premiere of what the body knowsat Stony Island Arts Bank. October 2016, with my collaborators and new additions to the project (costuming, lighting), the project will be shared with Chicagoans and those visiting the city; bearing witness and engaging with us in this continuing and evolving conversation on race & disability, through dance.
what the body knows campaign is LIVE. $3000 to be raised by 11:59pm June 9th.
*above image of Jerron (left) and Barak by EyeAmNikkiB
– “…addresses the distinct and intersecting legacies of race and disability..”
the black | body, Dana’s performance of Yellow Towel
reflections from various folk
– “Rarely have I experienced such active, complex inner negotiations about how/whether/when to relate: to the live in the moment, to the issues being addressed, to the thoughts and feelings they evoked.”
– “Once you commit, you’re locked in and have to do it, like it or not. It’s not fun at times, you want to look away, your gut rises and falls in your stomach…. but at the end, you walk out with a rush of adrenaline and can’t wait to do it again.”
Engaging community, Dana joined folks on the south side for Open Dances; to talk about how and why she does what she does.
the black | body featuring Montreal choreographer and performer Dana Michel in Yellow Towel
the black | body, a 2015-16 series of progressive art by black artists from across the diaspora, is the culmination of a trilogy of curatorial projects, beginning with Black and Beyond , which featured the work of three contemporary black dance artists pushing the boundaries and limitations of the ‘black bodies’ as legacy and form. Next was Studies N Black [2007-8], a progressive series of mini-festivals and events in Minneapolis, Brooklyn NY and Chicago that offered a multidisciplinary offering of black artists who delved into the problematic, stereotypical, emotional or cosmological dimensions of black culture.
the black | body series was initiated in Evanston with my exhibition of archived performance art works, TRIPTYCH: CYCLE this past fall. It now continues in downtown Chicago with innovative artist Dana Michel’s performances of Yellow Towelat Storefront Theatre this Friday & Saturday February 26 – 27th; part of DCASE/On Edge programming.
As a child, Dana Michel would drape a yellow towel on her head in an attempt to emulate the blonde girls at school. As an adult, she now revisits the imaginary world of her alter-ego in a performative ritual free of cover-ups or censorship. Blending austerity and absurdity, she digs into black culture stereotypes, turning them inside out to see whether or not she can relate. Strongly influenced by the aesthetics of fashion, music videos, queer culture and comedy, Dana quickly stood out as an emerging dance artist. With Yellow Towel, she explores new creation territories and most decidedly asserts herself as an artist to watch.
Dana Michel is a choreographer and performer based in Montreal, Canada. Before entering the BFA in Contemporary Dance program at Concordia University in her late twenties, she was a marketing executive, competitive runner and football player. In 2011, She had the honour of being a danceWEB scholar, allowing her to deepen her research process at ImPulsTanz in Vienna, Austria.
Her practice is rooted in exploring the multiplicity of identity using intuitive improvisation. She works with notions of performative alchemy & post-cultural bricolage; using live moments, object appropriation, personal history, future desires and current preoccupations to create an empathetic centrifuge of experience between herself and witnesses. Today, her work can perhaps best be described by its influences: lucid cinematography, living sculpture, physical comedy, psychological excavation, deconstructed social commentary, the bulimic logic of Hip Hop and child-like naïveté. Her work has been presented in North America (Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Salt Lake City and New York City) and in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Serbia & Switzerland). Inhabiting both traditional & non-traditional spaces is a key component in the creation of her work.
Over the past nine years, her work has been awarded the Montreal Fringe Festival “Best Dance Production” in 2005, the Globe and Mail’s “Best Emerging Choreographer” in 2006, and a “Top Ten Choreographers” listing by the Montreal Mirror newspaper in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The film version of her solo the greater the weight won the jury prize for the “Best Female Performance” at the 2009 In Shadow International Festival of Video, Performance and Technologies in Lisbon.