The African Chronicles: Solo to Ensemble

photography by Ouassim Esmili


Tonight, the Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project presented two works, “Not because you are African” and “Whiteness Revisited” at the French Institute in Rabat, Morocco. With the New Year holiday being the same evening we were a little worried our audience would be small, but we were happy to see a good size crowd for the evening performance. I wasn’t expecting such positive responses we received following our performance, almost all of the crowed stayed after for the Q&A. They had many questions in regards to race and issues surrounding Olivier’s exploration of personal experiences about “being African” juxtaposed against my solo, “Whiteness Revisited” about white privilege and the invisibility of whiteness.

The two solos worked very well together and it was very interesting to see the two solos back-to-back and how both issues were strengthened. The works tonight said something about assumptions we all make about the color of skin. The audience was a mix of Moroccans, Europeans, Arabs, and other Africans not from Morocco. They seemed really interested in race tensions and how those play out in their own mixed culture. Even the translation for the Q&A traveled between English, French, Arabic, and Moroccan dialects.

Tonight I was really proud of the work we did; I usually am proud, but tonight I was especially proud because I knew the audience felt something personal. They saw well directed and choreographed work that contained socially-relevant subject matter. The tensions of race were brought out through personal stories, through some drama and some humor. Following the evening we picked up Windega from a sitter’s home and as we drove away it was absolutely beautiful to see my colleagues hold their sleepy daughter in their arms. Strangers may clap, and acquaintances may praise, but at the end of the day, it seems their work is for her. Solos will continue, but nothing compares with the ensemble they make as a family.

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Solo and Agenda Setting

Here are two short clips of the beginning stages of my choreographic research, “intersecting policy and dance.”  It is the same movement layered with a different sound-score.  The first is “This is Heaven” by Madeleine Peyroux and the second is a sound-score I wrote and recorded; it combines Garmin direction language with common policy words we often hear that affects the way we move through public and personal spaces.

In these clips, I am working on physical movement problems; specifically, movement generated by my physical capabilities and limitations, working within the permissions and denials of my own body. To give an example: a flexible lower back and tight hamstrings.  What possibilities come from these physical ‘problems’? And how can I solve movement sequences in new ways?

I am purposely trying to challenge my physical capacity to accomplish problems in new ways and thereby generate a more fresh, three dimensionality style.

Emerging Research for “Intersecting Policy and Dance”

I am gathering research for the Dance Under Construction conference at UC Riverside on April 16.  Check out my upcoming presentation and learn more about “Intersecting Policy and Dance.”

1.  Click here #3

2.  Click on “show” in the upper left corner wheel to view the whole presentation.

3.  Feedback is welcome!

I started work on a solo today exploring the connection between policy negotiations, the process of writing, adjusting, and organizing language to best solve problems for the ‘bettering’ of a group.  I am working towards connecting this idea to the physical negotiations that occur to solve movement problems.  Using policy and physical language I am constructing a piece that reveals the dancer in the problem solving moment.  This may mean multiple repetitions of a similar phrase but with varying answers.  It differs from theme and variation in a few ways: I want to see the human body struggle to solve it, it may be removing the body out of the ‘performative’ mode to a ‘practice’ mode to accomplish the problem.  I also want to use improvisation as part of the final piece so the body is truly negotiating.  I am interested in the presentation of policy solutions and the juxtaposition of solving/creating policy.  I expect this piece to be layered with a ‘final’ product as well as show with the ‘rough draft’ or ‘processing draft.’

The process so far has been very rewarding.  I am finding physical habits and/or set policies in the body that need to be questioned as well as rewritten, or possibly embraced and strengthened if necessary.  Creating a window of opportunity — when significant people or players work together to find a space to make change in policy, also happens on a physical level and I am discovering the multiple ways in which to set up and take advantage of physical windows of opportunity.  I am working on this solo for the spring adjudication at OSU and will use the process and possibly some of the created material for my thesis.