Sunday, January 19, 2014

Work-in-progress by Nia Love presented by Ailey/Fordham students

Students from Ailey's New Directions Choreography Lab
rehearsing a work-in-progress by Nia Love
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Congratulations--and a big thanks--to choreographer Nia Love (Love/Forté: A Collective) and her wonderful dancers from the New Directions Choreography Lab of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Last Friday, the lab presented a showing of Love's work-in-progress at the Ailey Studios to a large circle of invited guests including Sylvia Waters (Ailey II Artistic Director Emerita), Melanie Person (Director, Ailey/Fordham BFA Program), renowned dance artists Christine DakinGus Solomons Jr. and Marlies Yearby, and several members of Love's family.

After Love and I participated in Paloma McGregor's Dancing While Black program last month, I was most honored when she invited me to collaborate on this new work by contributing text--now called make a dance--that I had read at McGregor's event. In my words, Love heard echoes of her central theme of re-connection to the earth and to cultural memory and community through the earth, inspired by her visits to Tanzania and research into agricultural practices.

Top and bottom: Ailey/Fordham BFA students at Wednesday's rehearsal
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

New Directions Choreography Lab was initiated by Robert Battle, who succeeded Judith Jamison as Ailey's artistic director in 2011, as a way for the institution to offer independent choreographers access to the space, time and dancers they need to experiment and to develop solid work. "Things take time," Battle said, "And we should honor process.”

Besides working out the best way to integrate my text into the project, Love's process involved the careful preparation of a floor grid with large patches filled with potting soil. 

Design by Nia Love
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Love and Dancers prepare before Friday's showing
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa

The dancers would have to be willing to dance--and I mean dance fast and hard--on this soil and get messy. Ultimately, these students proved to be up to the task. And on Friday, during the actual showing, it was a thrill for me to see the soil get scattered outside its taped lines in the sunlit studio.

This was, of course, only the first leg of the journey--which will involve more travel and research overseas and to the American south--and I'm wishing Love the very best as she continues to develop this powerful and moving piece.

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