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.”

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