the black | body : Dana Michel

this week:

the black | body featuring Montreal choreographer and performer Dana Michel in Yellow Towel


promo pic 3 by Maxyme G. Delisle
Image of Dana Michel by Maxyme G. Delisle


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 [2001], 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 Towel at 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 will also engage with the public in dialog as part of  Open Dances at Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative studio [1456 e 70th St] on Saturday, February 27th from 1 – 3pm. She will lead a workshop, An Activator Class in Choreography, as part of Illinois Humanities Art School series on Sunday, February 28th.

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. 




the “good” and the black | body.

distinctive legacies. progressive forms.

It’s February, a month that seeks to acknowledge distinctive contributions and legacies of folk of the African diaspora in America.  Upcoming, I’m excited to offer events that speak to these legacies and provoke the progress of contemporary understandings.


this week: the “good” body

photo by Laura Blauer


Feb 19th, the “good” body (Chicago Edition)

Friday, February 19th (2 – 4 PM) Gallery 400, Lecture Room
the “good” body (Chicago edition) is a performative lecture centered within the intersection of disability and race. Through this multidimensional lens, I’m seeking to instigate a deeper dialog surrounding the current social and political tensions present in our contemporary society.  It was originally presented as the keynote lecture for Middlebury College’s Clifford Symposium this past fall. Chicago will experience a new and revised version!

There will be ASL interpretation, real-time captioning, audio description, personal assistants available and encourage attendees to refrain from wearing scents. Gallery 400 is  wheelchair accessible.

RSVP for the “good” body (Chicago edition)


COMING SOON: the black | body

newness. and firsts


new year greetings…

allowing for newness. embracing firsts. and a return to the blog!

2016 marks my 25th anniversary!

25 years dedicated to making, being involved in live arts. To celebrate this milestone, I will be exploring new ways to engage the beautiful folks within community that have been and continue to be part of my creative world.


new name
This past year I legally changed my name to barak adé soleil.  for those who have come to know me as “Baraka de Soleil”, please note this transition for future reference.  with the new shift in name, comes a new look for the blog; encouraging access for varied folks. join me in welcoming this newness!

new residency
I’m the choreographer-in-residence for Rebuild Foundation!  This opportunity allows me to build a studio practice on south side of Chicago and cultivate community. I will be maintaining regular hours on Wednesdays at Rebuild’s Dorchester Art+Housing Collaborative space. Look for programs related to this residency in the coming month!

new fellowship residency
Aligned with Rebuild’s residency and 2015 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award, I will be  further developing  what the body knows as a new fellowship residency recipient through 3Arts and University of Illinois Chicago! This residency is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to 3Arts. The 3Arts Fellowships at UIC are the result of a partnership between 3Arts, Bodies of Work, and UIC’s Department of Disability and Human Development.

what’s coming up:

February 19th, the “good” body (Chicago Edition)
Friday, February 19th (2 – 4 PM)
Gallery 400, Lecture Room

the “good” body (Chicago edition) is a performative lecture centered within the intersection of disability and race.  Through this multifaceted lens,  I offer personal insights and poetics excavated from a deep engagement with the profound traditions of the African diaspora, disability culture and their interwoven aesthetic; instigating further dialog surrounding the current social and political tensions present today.  As a queer disabled artist of color, i’m committed to exposing the nuances of the intersectional body as an inherent reflection of humanity; while questioning the historical contexts in which live art is created and interpreted.

Please RSVP for the “good” body (Chicago edition) at

February 26 – 28th, the black | body with Montreal’s Dana Michel
Continuing my current  curatorial project the black | body, international artist Dana Michel will be coming to Chicago!  She will be presenting her solo, Yellow Towel, on Friday & Saturday, February 26-27, 7pm at Storefront Theatre in downtown; as part of Department of Cultural Affairs’ On Edge Series. In conjunction with the performances, Dana will also be engaging in a public dialog session (Open Dances) on Saturday at 1pm and, as part of Illinois Humanities Council’s community programming, offering a workshop on Sunday.


*above image by Onyx from solo “turttle”.

meeting of creative minds.

seated l to r: Arna Bontemps, Paul Robeson, Canada Lee & Langston Hughes, 1946
seated left to right: Arna Bontemps, Paul Robeson, Canada Lee & Langston Hughes, circa 1946

Notes on the image: “Langston Hughes meets with Paul Robeson, Canada Lee, and Arna Bontemps about the Maxine Wood play, “On Whitman Avenue” in 1946. The play was about a Black World War II veteran who encountered racist opposition when he and his family moved into a White neighborhood. Mr. Lee produced and starred in the play which ran for 148 performances. This photo is from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library. Their record does not identify the gentleman on the left as Arna Bontemps (it simply says “Unidentified man”) but I am confident that it is indeed Mr. Hughes’s fellow poet and friend, Mr. Bontemps.” – #VintageBlackGlamour

#BlackIsBold #Collaboration #BlackHistoryMonth

Mr. Hughes, your roots flow infinite

your roots flow infinite

angels still sing your name

and here on earth

we carry your words in our hearts:

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
     went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Langston Hughes
Happy B-day James Mercer Langston Hughes


#BlackIsBold #Roots #TheNegroSpeaksOfRivers #ForMrLangstonHughes