Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.
--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
(photo: Whitney Browne Photography)
Jasmine Hearn is a performer, director, choreographer, organizer, and teaching artist. A native Houstonian, they are a company member with Urban Bush Women and also collaborates with BANDportier, Holly Bass, Vanessa German, Jennifer Nagle Myers, and Alisha B. Wormsley. They have worked and performed with David Dorfman Dance, Alesandra Seutin’s vocabdance, Solange Knowles, Kate Watson-Wallace, STAYCEE PEARL dance project, Marjani Forté-Saunders, will rawls, Tara Aisha Willis, Helen Simoneau Danse, Lovie Olivia, and with Nick Mauss as a part of exhibition, TRANSMISSIONS. Awarded a 2017 “Bessie" Award with Skeleton Architecture, Jasmine has had residencies at the PearlArts Studios, Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Camargo Foundation, and Dance Source Houston. They have shared their work at Danspace Project, La MaMa Theater, New York Live Arts, BAAD!, and the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. They are currently a 2019 Jerome Foundation Jerome Hill Artist Fellow and a part of the 2019 MR AIR program.
(photo: Alisha B. Wormsley)
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yep, I am in the thick of three projects. Before the order to stay at home passed, I was preparing for a string of performances carrying various roles as choreographer, curator, producer, and performer, while also navigating my first year as a company member with Urban Bush Women.
Since most performances have been either canceled or postponed, all the projects I am directing have had a moment to rest since I decided to rest. Currently, I am finding ways for collaborators and me to continue with the intent to focus our creative trajectory towards the detail and depth of our relationship to each other and our creative material. I’m also attempting to mirror how I learned to cook to how I choreograph and direct and teach and learn. My mother comes to mind...her opening the fridge and seeing what we already have.
But it all hasn’t been slow. Long-term collaborators and friends slowdanger and I released our first album, EchoLocation--a collection of live composition recordings from past residencies. Like many others I am talking with, this has been a time to reflect and be with footage, sound bites, text, and memories that were hastily collected and stored.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I grew up craving to be creative in some kind of way—in love with colors, cutting up clothes, dancing alone in a room. Being creative gave me such salve and, over the years, I always returned to art movement song collage color as a way to be in connection with spirit and self. These were moments to express myself without the pressure of making sense.
Dance class was also something I was put into by my mother because I kept falling down the stairs and floating off utterly lost in daydream. I found that dancing with others was hard—judgement, pressure, and doubt sprouted when learning and performing step routines for the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver talent shows, adagios in ballet class, or a part of the group at the club with my sister. It was different than dancing alone in a room or surrendering to color. I kept at it though learning movement, dances, counts, songs, form, choreography, lines, and cultures with encouragement from my mother, my aunties, my village, my teachers, and a voice deep inside saying yes.
And then there is performance—that way of being with a room. I return to memories of me dancing at my mother’s luncheons or at church events--these three minute solos where, all along the aisles, I would just dance in color-themed costumes. Sound played from the boombox. The click of the “play” button. The DIY-edited cassettes tape rolling out the voices of Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, and Carmen McRae. I got to perform what I had been practicing with color and spirit, and now also with witness. The energy exchange here different, intense. Finding pleasure in being seen and pleasure finding me. These moments paired with memories of performing with others who were committed to the counts, songs, form, choreography, lines, and cultures. Us listening. The energy here too different. Charged, powerful.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
I am practicing
what I’ve studied with my teachers
how my body dances and memorizes
how to expand and contract
how to listen on the spectrum
how my voice reflects sound
how to be in connection with myself and others
how to make boundaries
listening to Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, and Octavia Butler
while still practicing
cutting up clothes
getting lost in daydream
dancing alone in a room
surrendering to color
It’s easy and difficult most of the time.
I’m envisioning living in a tree. I’m envisioning with Alisha B. Wormsley that there are Black people in the future in the future there are black queer femmes that there are black womyn that there are black genderqueer gender non conforming people in the future in the future there is reproductive justice for all black people especially black women and girls I am dreaming of
pleasure being centered
gut feelings and the Earth listened to
spines moving, all our spines moving
all plastic and styrofoam reused
dancing and singing with you close by
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
I have kept returning back to dance, movement, color, fantasy, and sweat because they/it have taught me how to care for myself and be able to communicate with others. Over the years as the rooms, the places, the priorities, the people change, I am asked to change. And I am grateful for each moment that has cast me into discomfort and given me the chance to reconnect with myself—to check in with that deep feeling and see if it’s still saying yes.
I am given chances to learn how to change—be mercurial listen grow gather share bend stop break open make boundary give move
Easing loneliness when lonely
centering my body when scattered
Reminding my body where i am
Reminding my spirit its connection to source
My current practice supports myself as an individual and as a part of a network group many lineage earth. In company with others, I am a part of cycles of ideas that are timeless and connected. I am reminded where I come from. I am grateful for this.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
My practice does a lot of bending to exist in this world. Sometimes the stretch is nice and other times it hurts. There can be resistance from others and/or myself. I am continuously learning to be in many different kinds of rooms and experiences and climates.
Self care tip
Move my spine move my heart cry eat laugh listen respond hydrate
DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation as well as Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.
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