Thursday, June 4, 2020

Artist Reach Out: Charmaine Warren

Dear friends,

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

Charmaine Warren

Charmaine Warren
(photo: Tony Turner)

Charmaine Warren (performer, historian, consultant, and dance writer) is the founder/artistic director for "Dance on the Lawn: Montclair's Dance Festival," and curator of dance at The Wassaic Project. She is the Producer of DanceAfrica, has curated for E-Moves and danced with david roussève/REALITY. Charmaine is on faculty at  Empire State Colleges, and is a former faculty at Ailey/Fordham, Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College and Kean University. She has been published in Dance Magazine and Amsterdam News and served as a panelist for Robert Battle's New Directions Choreography Lab.

Charmaine holds a Ph.D. in History/Howard University, a Master’s in Dance Research/City College, and Bachelor Degrees (Dance/English)/Montclair State College. She is a 2017 Bessie Award Recipient for Outstanding Performance as a member of Skeleton Architecture Collective.

Charmaine Warren
(photo: Tony Turner)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

Sadly, this year, 2020, was to be my first live DanceAfrica as the newly-hired Producer. Like other presenting organizations, BAM was closed, and we were all directed to follow the shelter-in-place directives. With the support of my many colleagues at BAM, most especially Coco Killingsworth, we created and presented Digital DanceAfrica.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

So many years ago, I was introduced to dance as an 8th grader, preparing for high school in Montclair, NJ. The school system was to begin a performing arts program at the high school, and one could take dance instead of gym. I signed up quickly.

It was this introduction to dance in Montclair, at the high school--then Montclair State College, now Montclair State University, just a bus or train ride to New York--that opened up the world of dance to me. I will name Andrew Jannetti with whom I began dancing through my college connections, but later I spent many years as a member of david rousseve/REALITY.

Those were great years of learning, performing and fellowship which I still hold dear. Now, most of my time is spent as an administrator (Founder/Artistic Director, Dance on the Lawn: Montclair's Dance Festival; Producer, DanceAfrica), but I cherish my time as a member of the improvisational group Skeleton Architecture, begun by Eva Yaa Asantewaa.

Four members of Skeleton Architecture Collective
in a 2018 appearance at Danspace Project.
Left to right: Angie Pittman, Melanie Greene,
Charmaine Warren and Jasmine Hearn
(photo: Ian Douglas)

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

I always had a daily practice, but now I'm giving more time to it. I practice Ashtanga yoga. I practice French through the Duolingo app.  I'm also thinking of how best to support African-descended artists beyond check-in phone calls.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

My yoga practice helps me to stay centered and allows time to truly think about next steps, because I sometimes move too fast. ;-) I highly recommend that some form of self-care is embraced.

I began French in high school and continued in college. As the Producer of DanceAfrica, I want to be as adept in the language as possible for those visits to francophone Africa; I want to be able to speak easily with my brothers and sisters there.

Lastly, it has always been my charge to support African-descended artists, so I am determined to find a way to do so from afar. I'm close to knowing what that thing is...very close.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

My yoga practice (stillness), my French lessons (connecting), and my commitment to African-descended artists is what keeps me strong; it keeps me centered; it helps me to know that there is truth in what we have done, what we do now, and what we will continue to do--MAKE ART!


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation and 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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