Friday, April 13, 2018

mayfield brooks: improvising while Black at GIBNEY

mayfield brooks
(photo: Amar Puri)

I spent some time this week drifting back into that intriguing realm that Reggie Wilson's Danspace Project platform opened a few weeks ago (Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance). Back with native people of stolen lands and enslaved people of the Middle Passage, back beneath the physical and psychic layers that make up present day Manhattan--this time, though, instigated and guided by mayfield brooks who calls her/their dance practice Improvising While Black.

With the three-part IWB: Dancing in the Hold, brooks opened a new series at GIBNEY called Gathering Place: Black Queer Land(ing), curated by Marýa Wethers as a place of "intersection among blackness, queerness and indigeneity." This series will continue with performances by jumatatu m. poe (Apr 19–21) and I Moving Lab (Apr 26–28).

The design of brooks's IWB: Dancing in the Hold breaks the framework for presentation. It is not one thing; it is different things. People gather not to just watch people do stuff but possibly do stuff themselves. Anything originally planned for one point in time might easily show up in another. And we all bring ourselves to it because it can't exist without us. In essence, this truly is Black space.

IWB: Dancing in the Hold is a performance in three parts investigating mayfield brooks’ ongoing project, Improvising While Black (IWB), which uses dance improvisation as a tool to create atmospheres of care and inquiry while listening to ancestral whispers of the middle passage.

Part I, P(a)rLAY, is an invitation to Black-identified artists to participate in an improvisational dance workshop and performance exploring IWB’s improvisatory techniques including speaking in tongues, wandering practices, somatic awakenings and partner work.

Part II, Dancing in the Hold, is an evening-length performance exploring underwater textures like shipwrecks and contaminated seaweed while embracing Black queer ancestors, Black rage, brilliance and joy.

Part III, Process(Ion), is a durational performance installation exploring gestures of Black revolt, poetics of oceanic abyss, spontaneous readings of Afropessimist scholarly texts and a procession to the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan.

P(a)rLAY was my second time taking a workshop with brooks--the first, hosted by Movement Research at Abrons Arts Center. Once again, I was amazed by how one gifted teacher's gentle invitations can quickly lead to profound revelations.

brooks has been spending time visiting, contemplating and drawing inspiration from the nearby African Burial Ground memorial. We visited as well, on a windy late afternoon, the twelve of us, and took away impressions for the work we would do together back in the Black Box studio. We also wrote letters to ancestors known and unknown, and learned meaningful things in the writing that perhaps we would never have attained any other way.

I will not be able to attend the durational event, Part III, tomorrow. However, I did return to GIBNEY's Black Box last night for Part II, Dancing in the Hold. I witnessed the entirety of it through a shroud of silver. Because I was a spirit. Because brooks asked nicely. Because two of us from the P(a)rLAY workshop showed up/said yes. So, into the depths where inky dark and screams and whimpers are broken by bioluminescence. Where a switched-on, unrestrained brooks is joined in liberation by South Africa's outstanding Mlondi Zondi.

It's late in the day now, but tickets might remain for tonight's show. Try for them!

For information and tickets for mayfield brooks's events tonight and tomorrow, click hereFor information, tickets and series passes for Gathering Place: Black Queer Land(ing), click here.

280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan
Subways: 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall; N/R/W to City Hall; 2/3 to Park Place

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