Wednesday, October 11, 2017

we won.

photo credit: Risa Shoup

I took a "nothing for nobody" day yesterday because after Monday night, time for rest, reflection, processing, and settling was necessary. I spent much of my time writing (and writing and writing) prayers of gratitude and acknowledgement. I am extraordinarily proud to be awarded the Bessie for Outstanding Performer as a part of the ensemble cast of *the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds* brilliantly curated and convened by Eva Yaa Asantewaa (also awarded for her Outstanding Service To The Field Of Dance).

As I reflect on all this and think about who I am grateful for that has made it possible for me to be present now doing this dancing *and* recognized for it, there is one name that is supreme: Ava Fields.

I mean, this award is for Outstanding Perfomer in an Improvisational Performance amongst a Multi Generational Community of Black Women and gender non conforming people that took place in a Church.

This was my entire dancing childhood.

I remember every class, rehearsal, performance, and moment in between with Aunt Ava. Those early years when she told me You can't do that dance because you haven't been through anything yet.

Those moments when she would thrust me onto stage with 30 seconds notice. I was the soloist. Time to improvise.

Our shopping trips to the thrift store for costumes.

The scrappiness of putting on a show with and for your community.

The day after my grandfather passed, I showed up at dance class and she said, I didn't expect to see you here but makes sense. I was 16 and heartbroken. She made space for me to dance it out.

The importance of waiting and listening for vision, as she shared her stories of walking the dog at 3am and becoming clear on the next big work.

The moment she proclaimed that "The Potter's House" was my dance. Something had shifted in my dancing. I was changed. Mature.

She showed me what it truly means to be a T E A C H I N G  A R T I S T.

How to meet people where they are - the community center, the street, the church - and open their hearts with movement.

Auntie Ava, you taught me how to do things with dance.

photo credit: AK47 Division


And so this recognition is for her, and for all the dance teacher Mamas and Aunties who raised us, who set us on our path, and made space for us to fly.

May this recognition, this visibility, this witnessing not only write the names of the cast of skeleton architecture into dance herstory, but write the legacies that we come from and the legacies we are building.


SLMDances at The Bessies.
From L to R: Kayla Hamilton (Outstanding Performer recipient, skeleton architecture), Courtney Keene (SLMDances Board Chair), Nia Austin-Edwards (Strategic Visioning Partner), Sydnie L. Mosley, Candace Thompson (former Associate Artistic Director, Board Member), Stephenni Miller-Allen (Apprentice), Jessica Lee (Company Member).


--
The e
nsemble of the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds is one of four awardees for Outstanding Performer. The cast includes Maria Bauman, Sidra Bell, Davalois Fearon, Marjani Forté-Saunders, Melanie Greene, Kayla Hamilton, Jasmine Hearn, Marguerite Hemmings, Nia Love, Paloma McGregor, Sydnie L. Mosley, Rakiya Orange, Grace Osborne, Leslie Parker, Angie Pittman, Samantha Speis, Charmaine Warren, Marýa Wethers, Ni’Ja Whitson, and others*

Curated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa for Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found

For a history-in-the-making performance that dismantled improvisational dance norms to create a robust, disruptive, and dynamic world. For a cast of individuals who used a full range of movement styles to take the audience from Dakar to Kingston, the Bronx to Bushwick, in a fluid dance of connection.

*Edisa Weeks and Tara Aisha Willis were also in the cast but are ineligible as they serve on the Bessie Selection Committee

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Haunt-Mourning-F*ck

October 23, 2016/Morning
Last night the energy was bubbling high. We were just happy to be in a tiny room together. "Marya's cute y'all!" Charmaine hollered out. All eyes on her as she shimmied in her midriff.

We walked out. Single file line. And as we arranged ourselves on the altar listening to the words that beckoned our presence and our power I noticed the overwhelming number of white faces staring back at us. Waiting patiently to see what our next move would be. This is first time I have ever done THIS work - church dancing - in white space.

A video posted by Danspace Project (@danspaceproject) on


I chose my prompt: the haunt.

Monday, July 4, 2016

sipping Lemonade, savoring pound CAKE




Today/July 4, 2016.
It’s taken me 15 months to get this post out, and today of all the days – the 4th of July – is when I finally feel free enough to finish this writing. Today, when the United States of America celebrates its independence with a day off, too much food and drink, and sparkling lights exploding overhead. On this day, I find myself lounging on my parents’ new porch, gazing at the trees, and inhaling more fresh air in the past 24 hours than I have since who-can-remember-when.

We moved here three weeks ago. Packed up 28 years of life on Woodbrook Avenue, stuffed it in a Budget moving truck, and dropped it off at a new house, only 10 minutes from the old one. We’ve always known this neighborhood and this street, North Avenue, but it’s still new in so many ways. That day was a historic one. The last of the Mosley’s moved away from Woodbrook Avenue where our family has lived for 66 years. Yes, you read that right.

When we arrived to the new house, Grammy greeted us with moving day-vittles and a pound cake. Damn, that cake was good. Maybe the best one she ever baked? Will she bring one when she comes by later?

Daddy put four whole seasoned chickens on the grill. He’s lining up sausages and hot dogs to go on next. I’m wondering, maybe we should make some lemonade for later?


April 25, 2016.
Exactly one year ago today, in the waning evening April sun, I picked up the phone and called my mother.

"Mommy, why is our neighborhood on fire?"

We were on Facetime on a Monday evening. She and I both alternated looking at each other's faces, and then back at the television screen’s live broadcast of a burning CVS on the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, 6 blocks south of our longtime family home.

"I don't know," she said.

The nausea that began in the pit of my stomach that day has not gone away yet, even a year later. Maybe it subsides, but total disappearance? Not yet.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Shining, Shaping + Standard Making: Candace Thompson Crafts Dance Caribbean COLLECTIVE

photo credit: Jamerlyn Brown

Before "shine theory" was in our lexicon, there has always been a general ethos amongst the women in my squad of, "When you shine, I shine." These are women in my world with whom I am absolutely in love. People with whom I trust my life and reflect back to me the best parts of who I am and who I want to be. Candace Thompson is high on that list of people. We met the first day I walked into Christal Brown's INSPIRIT rehearsal over 6 years ago. Christal partnered Candace and I for a duet. I think it's safe to say we've been dancing that duet ever since.

Seriously, I have never known someone more driven, committed and goes-hard-in-the-paint no-matter-what than Candace. She is brilliant, and there is not enough I can do to lift her up, but today, I am trying.

In honor of the New Traditions Festival: Dance Your Caribbean, that she is producing this weekend June 11 + 12 with the Dance Caribbean Collective, I thought I would give the world a window into our ongoing conversation to see what happens when dance-making, dance extravaganza-producing, sister-friends get on the phone and talk through the work.

This interview took place on June 2. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.

MAGIC MAKING
Sydnie L. Mosley: Well, I want to start by saying, I am so proud of you.

Candace Thompson: Aww. Yay!

SLM: Yes, because in a very short time period - a year and a half - you have not only committed to developing your own choreographic voice, but also to create a platform to uplift that voice within the New York City dance community, and then, make space for other people to do that as well… which is a REALLY BIG DEAL!

CT: [laughter] Well, thank you for acknowledging that. You don’t always get to step back and think about it because you are so busy doing [the work].

SLM: How does that make you feel?!

CT: It makes me feel good. I feel like I started working on my choreography and then it was, “Oh maybe we can do a collective!” because at the end of the day, dance at the basic level is supposed to fun. It is supposed to be something you do with other people. You know?

SLM: Right.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On MHP and Accountability



In case you've been living under a rock and not paying attention to Black girl nerd news, Melissa Harris Perry is no longer on weekend cable news with her MSNBC show, the Melissa Harris Perry Show. After a four year tenure galvanizing diverse audiences and representing diverse voices in mainstream media with segments on every thing from politics to pop culture, activism and other current events, Harris-Perry left MSNBC with a no-fucks-given bang. (I'll leave it up to you to catch up on the details here, here, and here.)

Well today, my favorite podcast hosts Heben and Tracy published an in-depth interview with MHP. Apparently, she reached out over the weekend specifically to spill the tea with them. (Shout out to Black women with platform and power sharing that space with the next generation.)

This interview is a MUST LISTEN. At about 37 minutes in, MHP's dialogue with Heben and Tracy resonated with me so deeply that it brought me to tears. As she breaks down her inflammatory  language in the email that went out to her staff, the one that first alerted the public all was not okay in #nerdland, she says:
When I’m talking about being a mammy, that’s a very specific thing that I am talking about. To me what a mammy is – what historically a mammy is conceived to be – the mammy is the worker in the household who cares more about her master’s family than about her own. She is the one who leaves her family behind in order to make sure that his family is dealt with; that his wife and kids and household are clean and in perfect order. That all things are right there, and is not worried about her own. What I understood Andy Lacks and Phil Griffin and leadership at MSNBC to be asking me to do was to appear on air, in my time slot, and therefore confuse Nerdland watchers so that they thought that we still had a show. Even though I could no longer bring them the content, which we have seen in the response to our cancellation, they were telling me was important. I don’t think I am what people thought was so important. I think, you know, most local anchors are pretty brown girls. What I understand people to be saying was important about MHP show was what we were doing. And what I was being told to do was leave my family behind, to leave MHP show, to leave Nerdland, and to appear on air to make Andy Lacks’ house look in order. That I was not willing to do, and I’m still not willing to do it. (emphasis mine)
What MHP is talking about here is accountability; accountability as a black woman who has been invited to sit at the proverbial table. She understands who her communities are and is unwilling to sacrifice creating space for and amplifying the voices of those who are not represented in white mainstream media. She knows that she is not the center, but rather the conduit through which so much more is made possible. This is what responsible gate-keeping looks like.  This moment cemented MHP to me as a contemporary patron saint for all those people of color who become the token in a white institution; for those of us who are offered a seat at the table and the semblance of some power. She is a patron saint because she isn't afraid to turn the table over, to walk away, to figure out another way.

She is also talking about black women's labor and being unwilling to sacrifice herself at the hands and expense of the master. What she is describing here -- her refusal to play mammy -- is revolutionary. I hear the undertones of Audre Lorde between her words.

As I listened to this moment, I think my tears came from identifying with being the token so many times in my life. Those tears were also from identifying with being offered a seat at tables while living particularly at the intersection of being a black woman, artist and advocate. I try my best to remain accountable, check in, amplify the voices of, offer opportunity to, create space for my families -- and many times that is a difficult thing. I feel blessed to witness a shining example of accountability when the stakes are high, and very public.

If it ever came down to it, may I be able to do the same.

#NerdlandForever

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dancing The African Diaspora: Embodying the AfroFuture

The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) is an egalitarian community of scholars and artists committed to exploring, promoting, and engaging African diaspora dance as a resource and method of aesthetic identity. CADD’s second Dancing the African Diaspora Conference conference aims to re-ignite the discourse on defining Black Dance on a global scale by bringing together scholars, practitioners, educators, and other stakeholders for three days of intellectual and artistic inspiration.

SLMDances was blessed this year to be able to attend the conference in its second iteration this year to present our own workshop "Discovering Our Future Bodies: Movement Making for the Liberation of Black Women." Take a look at the following storify that includes tweets and snippets from our experience at the conference. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

SPENT (a BodyBusiness epilogue)



May 2016 will mark the 6th year since the first time I publicly presented ensemble dance work in NYC. I was just a year out of grad school, many pounds lighter and babysitting for a rotation of 5-6 families to make ends meet each month.

Since then, SLMDances has been flying by the seat of our pants: taking opportunities as they have rolled in and forging other opportunities when we were clear no one was going to hand us anything. With prayer, we have met our minimal financial obligations each month. I have been grateful in that time for gracious gifts from individual donors, small financial and in kind support from family when possible, the gift of rehearsal space from my alma mater, as well as some of the greatest dancers in the world. These women are my joy. Still, we have been operating on a shoe string budget with most every dime of my personal freelance work going to support SLMDances. I have believed, and still do, that I must invest in myself first to make it work.

Through the course of those six years I have encountered a number of remarks along the lines of: How do you do it?! You're still going! When do you sleep?

The truth is: Not as much as I like, nor as well as I would like.

Since I started this work I have been operating from a deficit, but what I lacked in funds I made up in sheer will and can do spirit. I have been so diligent and committed because making art while building and advocating for my communities is living in my purpose. I have been clear on that since I was a child; the dream is the truth.

Still, I am exhausted. As a fellow dancer I am working with recently remarked, she is "so tired, but you're not allowed to be tired."

Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflections on the 2016 Dancing the African Diaspora Conference

The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD) is an egalitarian community of scholars and artists committed to exploring, promoting, and engaging African diaspora dance as a resource and method of aesthetic identity. CADD’s second Dancing the African Diaspora Conference conference aims to re-ignite the discourse on defining Black Dance on a global scale by bringing together scholars, practitioners, educators, and other stakeholders for three days of intellectual and artistic inspiration.

Dancing While Black invited myself and Candace Thompson to share reflections from this conference experience. Here are my reflections from the gathering.
---
I didn’t know it while I was preparing over the last several weeks for Dancing the African Diaspora: Embodying the Afrofuture, but attending this weekend’s conference was attending the church revival. The text: our stories, artistic work and scholarly research. The congregation: scholars/artists/educators/students and anyone else invested in the field from the U.S. and beyond. As closing speaker Dr. Nadine George-Graves remarked, “Diaspora Dance is an institution, and we are building it.”

Her talk, a lecture-demonstration with Dancing While Black fellows Orlando Hunter and Ricarrdo Valentine, coupled with a shorter talk by Dr. Mark Anthony Neal were the sermons. Baba Chuck Davis led us through an offering and encouraged us to pass the peace.

I use the reference of church to describe the conference not for hyperbole, but rather to convey the holistic experience that it was for me — someone who has spent the entirety of her academic and artistic careers invested in the myriad of spaces between black and/or dance and/or woman and/or church and/or community organizing/activism in the diaspora. This was not your average academic conference. There was space for all these investigations and more; space for affirmation, critique, questioning, connecting, theorizing, planning, dancing, laughing, crying… and I needed all of it. As I overheard Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin, one of the lead conference organizers say to some student attendees,


“Soak up whatever you need while you are here this weekend, and take it back home with you.”

Monday, February 22, 2016

#BBHMM: Understanding the artist's body as business

Recently, I have been working in a beautiful partnership with two of my favorite people: A. Nia Austin-Edwards, founder of Purpose Productions, and Kendra Ross, founder of STooPS Bedstuy. Alec  Duffy who operates the Brooklyn performance space JACK, opened his doors to us and with BodyBusiness still on our hearts and minds we crafted a workshop to address the practicalities of negotiating compensation between artists and organizations. 

Here you'll find a recap of that event through a compilation of live tweets. Take a look and stay tuned because there is a lot more #BBHMM to come. 


Monday, February 15, 2016

Dancing While Black Fellowship Roundtable

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a public dialogue with the current Dancing While Black Fellowship cohort about who we are, where are blackness lives, and how it shows up in our dancing. Revisit the highlights of our conversation here, captured via twitter. 

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