taking a moment to take in/look at various thoughts shared via facebook and email of those who witnessed the world premiere of what the body knows : a dance suite of two solos and a duet. here’s one in particular, reflecting on various moments within the solo “ele’fant” and duet “carry”:
“To make a new world, we need to create new aesthetics. Barak Adé Soleil is making a new aesthetic, and it is the most destabilizing thing I have ever seen. This is more than a remix of existing body politics; beyond addressing the oppression and hegemony of current race, disability, gender, and sexuality behavior/discourse, his work is opening a door to a new way of being human in our crazy world. He eats the poisoned apple from our hands and regurgitates the pieces for us to see. He crawls the floor with the force of a freight train and ploughs through our psyches. He slams his body against the walls, and the walls shake. After “what the body knows,” someone asked me where do we go from here? ANYWHERE WE WANT.”
– Mary Wu
more reflections to come from what the body knows and other presentations this year…
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
#Collaboration – honing the space for more truthful mutual exchange.
this year, noted disabled dance artist, Alice Sheppard and i have committed to be in thoughtful collaboration. A collaboration upholding truthful exchange. One that calls us to have respect and dignity for the body in the work and the process. Allowing each other to be fully present and empowered. We don’t call each other out; we call each other closer to the mission. A collaboration that builds community beyond ourselves and the work.
Jazz lives deeply in Chicago, with a rich & powerful legacy… much like tap in Chicago, but for me it is one that feels somewhat invisible. perhaps it’s just me. nonetheless this tap legacy is one that -after witnessing Chicago Human Rhythm Project‘s vibrant showcase- provokes the need for serious research and further excavation to understand the depth of its history….
this past Monday night, at the wonderfully intimate and warm Jazz Showcase , Chicago Human Rhythm Project [CHRP] presented a brilliant showcase where “the ‘pros’ and ‘ams’ came together”. the impressive Lane Alexander, co-founder & director of CHRP, has brought together an incredible group of tap artists from around the world for this festival; in its 23rd year dubbed “Rhythm World”. inside this world some will teach, others to learn, to perform…many will do ALL of the above.
tonight it’s a true mix of up & coming with masterful artists. walking into the entrance you can already feel the buzz and anticipation for what’s to come. and ambiance! the space: resonant and low-lit with images of famous musician performers from the past. the present: a trio of musicians offering distinctive jazz standards, medleys & mashups; complementing the explosive tap percussive rhythms. and what better way to create ambiance for the tap to come than to have live music! especially with the stellar jazz trio led by Greg Spero on piano, Junius Paul on bass and Makaya Mccraven on drums. inviting and compelling.
the stage is set…rather a floor has be set on top of the legendary stage of the Jazz Showcase – a staple for kool vibes and koolness all around since 1947. students, teachers and masters of tap have assembled with lovers of tap to witness, be part of and take part in thisJAM.
yes, the stage is about to be lit up! but FIRST:
Lane welcomes us then introduces our host for the evening, Stomp’s Lisa La Touche. she smartly articulates what’s about to happen, who’s about to come up and offers up nicknames, tidbits and small anecdotes to give further insight into this expansive spectrum of artists & artistry.
with closed eyes listening, i wonder as it begins ‘to stomp or not to stomp’: how will each tap artist share their unique sensibility?
#1 Toronto (Christian) lanky, stomping, fresh eyed, eager
#2 Chicago (Mark/Chicago Tap Theatre) light touches, finely detailed execution, tickling the stage with his foot, Ali-like, riffs, finesse
#3 NYC based (Samara & Christina female duo) ‘flava’, communicative to musicians & each other, at points contrapuntal, awakened improvisatory sensation that continues to reverberate throughout the evening.
#4 Texas/NYC (Nicholas Young) spoke to musicians as if he was “conductor’, a conduit, groove, channeling the legacy of tap, put a smile on the pianist’s face, stomp, put his foot down! the strength of his dynamics
the way they communicated to the musicians…a creative symbiosis
#5 N. Carolina (Adriana) seeking to rise to above a challenge. setting the tone for the musicians, began sans music, a sweetness arose, in phrasing in expression, exudes the freeness of free jazz.
it’s about how they lay into the beat or against the beat, the dynamics, textures, phrasing
#7 Vegas & Australian international duet (Winston & Victoria) him from Melbourne, she living in Vegas. dressed in slacks & collard shirt, all black with dreads, he lays the foundation, hips slightly swaying curving inside the contours of the steps. she of comfort leggings & t shirt, much taller but light and smiling, pounces on top of his smoothness. they finish each others sentences. ends in a layered dense satisfying simultaneity of his and her feet coming together.
#8 Chicago/N. Carolina ‘national duet’ (Luke & Donnetta) he white, she black both young and vibrant. bass begins, snaps ensue, they go! catch where one ends and take it somewhere else, dazzling footwork (hers),how he lays into a step. summertime and the livin is easyfloats inside the musical renderings…she of footworKINGz he the “Justin Beiber of tap”.
#9 Chicago (Star) closes out first half. young & beautifully hip with her tap boots & leggings, her multicolored long tresses. a sincere koolness, she says hi to us sweetly and then works it out on the floor! laughter, joy emanates, playfulness, with moments of complex and fast fast footwork.
BREAK. stage ‘cools off” room buzzing with what has been experienced. excitement for who’s to take the stage next….
AND WE’RE BACK!
as #10 Canada (Lisa), proudly proclaiming her “Canadianness” the hostess opens up the 2nd half, contributing her own flair to this richly diverse tapestry of tap. quite clean and graceful.
#11 Japan is in the house! (A trio) probably reppin the youngest tapper of the evening, she is quick and on point with her percussive footwork. two other older but still young men transmit and transcend moments of interplay between the three. snippets Route 66 drip inside the arrangement and they finish with a “bow” to the audience and musicians.
continuing the international flow…
#12 Switzerland (Daniel) head nodding, a far away look that as he searches the music for that precise moment(s) to land, hit, accent and punctuate…
#13 Ohio/NYC/Chicago (Sarah) fresh from working alongside Savion Glover, gives the “go ahead” to the musicians..”I like that” she shares with us as the smile grows and the feet get to moving. sporting a “skull & crossbones” shirt, not at all symbolic of her feet that are so alive! she shimmers her way to end and curtsies.
#14 Chicago/Riverdance (Tre) nonchalantly drops his keys on a nearby table and with his white patent leather shoes gives full on tap swagger.
diverting to numbers #16 – 18 ALL STARS CONTINUE
#16 Touring the world /Chicago (Nico) though i thought i heard “Rico” and with all intention he gives the best form of “suave” tap one can imagine. it is finessed. it is smooth.
#17 NYC (Jason) New Jersey born he boldly takes the stage. stomps, commands. ‘kicks up dust’. contends with the drum. tracks the beats, becomes the beat. an intensity of focus, an exquisite articulation and expression that inspires a mash up of music, an ’empire state of mind‘.
#18 Chicago (Jumaane) Chi-town closes out the evening with the “bearded hoofer”, hip and elegant. skinny jeans. white shirt. jacket and gold shoes. yes golden. from southside he transports all of that and then some. “yall know Dr. Jimmy Slyde?” he asks as if he is about to channel this beloved tap legend. indeed he carries forth that prowess as if he is channeling this man. but not just this man. it seems he is channeling the ancestors of Africa through the drums of his feet. rhythms, at one point like murmurings that resonated throughout the intimate showcase space….ones that that feel ancient, yet he is truly a contemporary artist…
and though they did not close out the evening they are the future…
#15 Y-Tech (a crew of 10) members from CHRP’s annual Youth Tap Ensemble Conference, this group of young ardent students crowd the small tap floor ready to jump in! it’s about the blues, a 12 bar moment for each one to show what they got. taking turns in sync with the shifts from chorus to phrase, individually offering a subtle or distinctive touch to how they choose to step, tap or slide. culminating in a full on jam of all 10 on the floor. yes they are students! we are reminded of this when Lisa challenges them by asking them to name the legendary artists displayed throughout The Jazz Showcase. they are still learning of this legacy but it is clear that they are absorbing the essence of tap and it lives deeply within their feet…
metabolic matter moving from the interiors of muscle memory
exuding its beauty within formlessness
a temporal space undoing habitual desires as
yielding an evolving composition of decomposition.
DANCE OF DECAY@ the Fasseas White Box Theater at The Drucker Center, Menomonee Club for Boys and GIrls, 1535 N. Dayton St. Chicago, IL 60642 map
FREE Parking Available
Admission: $12 general, $10 students/Seniors, and $20 for Tickets for Two (available only 7 pairs through FanFuelded). Tickets are available at the door or: FanFueled.com (sale starts one month before the show)