Monday, February 13, 2017

Voices of The Skeleton Architecture at Gibney Dance

Charmaine Warren
(photo: Tony Turner)
Below: Ni'Ja Whitson
(photo: Flybird Photography)

The Skeleton Architecture is a vessel of Black womyn and gender nonconforming artists rooted in the rigor and power of the collective in practice. We create, organize, advocate, gather, curate, perform, play, challenge, and teach through the deep of our ancestral knowledges toward the liberated future of our worlds.

This past weekend, The Skeleton Architecture collective completed we (been) here--a unique series of private and public events (here and here) hosted by Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center and welcomed by Yasemin Ozumerzifon, Gibney's Senior Community Action Manager.

Before the collective opened its Sunday afternoon of storytelling and movement activities, I asked four member artists to reflect on their feelings about the weekend and the meaning of the work ahead.

Charmaine Warren: A community, a gathering, a time to remember self and to remember those who are part of self. A time to listen. A time to recognize. A time to honor. A time to love, a time to touch hearts. A time to cry, inside or outside. And a time to share just what we need to share with an outside audience.
Charmaine Warren identifies as "Jamaican-born performer, curator, consultant, mentor, mother, wife, sister, friend."

Ni'Ja Whitson: I participated in Friday [the private gathering for members of the collective], and I'm participating today [in the public forum]. Over the course of the planning, what has resonated and has continued to be a place for me to ruminate is how we are being in the practice of collectivizing, and the work of that, and the real love-centered and heart-centered intentionality around creating a collective and that process. So this is what I'm thinking about, and I feel excited about it, a little scared about it, because it also requires honest contribution in a way that's not just the political, educational thing that we know but your emotional depth and what are you going to contribute there. It isn't about half-in and half-out. Not that I would show up that way anywhere. But truly being in a circle that feels like family, I need to feel fully present. 
Ni'Ja Whitson identifies as "an interdisciplinary artist activating practice through movement, text, installations; a member of this growing collective; a practicing student of herbalism and African diasporic ritual, sacred practices, for over twenty years now. And I use they/them gender pronouns."

Leslie Parker: At this moment, I think I still need to process the whole thing. All that's popping in my head right now is: amazing, breathtaking. I'm overwhelmed. I'm excited. Like the turnout, the conversation, the movement, the dancing, the sharing of histories and values, the exchange...the heat! We talked about the heat. A lot of heat, just really belly gut goodness. It's been great. 
Leslie Parker identifies as "a Black woman, dancer, artist happy being in this space, loving sharing space with The Skeleton Architecture and other Black women and gender nonconforming artists. That's what's left over from what has been happening in this weekend, and I feel embraced."

Edisa Weeks: I keep coming back to the word "empowering." That's the first thing that came to my brain, empowering in the sense of how do we share resources, how do we embrace difference, how do we create space for difference, celebrate difference but, in that, celebrating community, celebrating who we are as individuals within the collective, and kind of shifting working in silos and working in isolation and shifting more towards how do we support each other and how do we disagree and agree and improvise and activate. And I come back to "empower."
Edisa Weeks identifies as "Edisa Weeks, Delirious Dances, Black artist, multidisciplinary artist and part of a larger sharing, standing on shoulders."

*****

Artists Angie Pittman, Charmaine Warren, Davalois Fearon, Edisa Weeks, Grace Osborne, Jasmine Hearn, Kayla Hamilton, Leslie Parker, Marguerite Hemmings, Marjani Forté-Saunders, Maria Bauman, Marýa Wethers, Melanie Greene, Nia Love, Ni'Ja Whitson, Paloma McGregor, Rakiya Orange, Samantha Speis, Sydnie L. Mosley, Sidra Bell and Tara Aisha Willis performed in the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds as part of Danspace Project's Lost and Found platform, October 22, 2016. For a round-up of reviews of that program, click here.

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