Friday, February 14, 2014

Dancing the African Diaspora


"Ame!" We responded.


"Ame." The final session of the weekend was called to order. Dr. Kariamu Welsh and Dr. Thomas DeFrantz sat in front of us on stage poised to talk, but this particular session did not happen like a plenary session. Nor was it a lecture. They sat, poised to lead us in conversation. To dialogue, to process and start to unpack all that occurred in those three days on Duke University's campus.

Attending the Dancing the African Diaspora Conference was such a blessing. I am beyond grateful to those people in the SLMDances community who helped to send myself and dancers Candace Thompson, Melanie Green, Kimberly Mhoon, and A. Nia Austin-Edwards to this event. More than lovers of movement, we are nerds in the truest sense -- our collective intellectual curiosity and penchant for critical debate is palpable in every conversation when we are together -- and it shows up in the dancing.

Sydnie facilitating TWSP workshop.
We took a divide and conquer approach. With numerous concurrent papers, panels and workshops, we each attended those that most piqued our interest and agreed to report back. And then there were the performances, and the main plenary sessions, and then, oh yes! We also presented. 

As a choreographer, I was amazed to see how the dancers' discussion of an array of theoretical topics helped to deepen their approach and intention to our presentation of The Window Sex Project. As a director, mentor and friend to these women, I also found great joy in bearing witness to their professional development. On Sunday while having brunch, our last sit down meal in Durham, Kimberly looked around at the table and asked, "So... what's next?"

We are all tingling, percolating, a-buzz with energy. We are dreaming about how to infuse this energy into our various practices as performers, dance makers, educators, administrators, scholars, human beings. That last panel sitting down with Mama Welsh, as she was affectionately called, was more than a closing talk. It was a community dialogue. It was church. "Dance is one of the most important texts in the African Diaspora," Dr. Welsh stated firmly, while lamenting how dance is even neglected and marginalized within Black Studies programs. She did not dwell on this though, and rather focused on a call to action - literally listing out topics for research, and ways to support one another in our various modes of dance work.

Over the next few weeks on this blog you will get to experience highlights of the conference through the perspectives of each of the dancers, as well as a recap of our own workshop session The Politics of Gender, Blackness and Urban Space: How The Window Sex Project Performs Feminist Activism in Harlem through video and photos. In reflecting on the conference in this way, I am hoping that you will get a sense of the multimedia/multi-sensory experience it was, and also gain an understanding of how the experience is propelling us forward into what's next.


1 comment:

ANAE said...


Dancing is always political. Let's dance!


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