Facets of Esoteric (FOEs) 2020:
While making this dance installation and experiential performance about the elaborate subjects surrounding privilege and marginalization, my focus is not about individual psychology, nor is it about political studies, but about social locations and the impacts of the “privileged” in relationship to the marginalized. When do we make that shift from the margins to the arenas of privilege? Are we able to identify our social places?
There are three parts to this performance, and they happen in three separate rooms. I use the rooms to compartmentalize the ideas in other to deal with them as separate entities. However, the building (space) where the whole performance takes place signifies “the frame” in which we live as humans.
The work is a dance performance in a fabricated space installation. The dance itself is derived from Nigerian social, ritual, and occupational dances. I have chosen to use the Nigerian traditional storytelling framework in telling the stories within this work. So expect to be confused as a westerner watching the work, because it is told entirely in a different language both spoken and danced.
The key to viewing this work is to observe. I have created a space that requires nothing of the audience, simply walk in and out of the space, observing.
This work was inspired by the huge disparity between dancers who practice non-mainstream styles like African dance and other dances from “subcultures”. I seek to trace and reclaim the values of my traditional dance history which is embedded in my practice as an African dancer within the framework of the US educational system. While not speaking directly to the issues, I have chosen to use object-metaphors and site-installation in telling what “privilege” looks like to a marginalized group through dance abstraction. The objects or props within this work are directly uprooted from a couple of Nigerian cultural dances where they might have different symbolic meanings. For example, the Yoruba Ondo Omi Obitun dance of fertility uses china plates (porcelain) in the climax of the dance performance, but I have converted this into an object-metaphor of abstraction to speak directly to the notion of white fragility.
Process and making of FOE 2019 and 2020: (add videos here)
Vote of Thanks:
I want to use this medium to appreciate the Kennedy Center For the Performing Arts (Washington D.C.), VCU School of the Arts, The Interim Dean,The Department of Dance and Choreography, and The Anderson for helping me make this work come to fruition.
I would like to thank the dancers and movers who have engaged with this work right from its beginning in December of 2019 to present.
Music Composed by Brian Bryson:
Creation and Concept Participants:
Latiesha Melvin (Toosh) (VCU Dance Alumni)
Phillip Baraoidan (VCU Dance Alumni)
Nelson Mejia (VCU Dance Alumni)
Keola Jones (VCU Dance Alumni)
Noah Zaner (VCU Dance Major)
Theophilus Nimpson (Sinclair Dance Company Member)
Tariq O’Meally (VCU Dance Alumni)
Final Performance Cast:
Shanna Lims (Independent Artist in Washington D.C.)
Alfumega Enock (VCU Dance Alumni)
Jenna Beardsley (VCU Dance Alumni)
Jelani Taylor (VCU Dance Alumni)
Sydney Wiggins (VCU Dance Alumni)