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 courtesy of the artist)
MurdaMommy is a dancer, musician, actor, and innovator in the film, fashion, and gaming industries. As a lesbian artist and a teen who experienced homelessness, she brings her life experiences into her practice and teaches the dance form Chicago footwork to people who live on the South and West sides of Chicago. In 2019, she was recognized by SWAN Day Chicago, celebrating Black women in dance.
MurdaMommy has performed across the U.S. In Chicago, she mentors and connects with all generations through performance and workshops, including programs within Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and Stateville Correctional Center.
As a musician, her style complements her choreographic and movement approach. She is currently working on her first official E.P. She recently created the short film I Am Queen, based on the women of Chicago footwork culture. She is also collaborating on Juke Town, an online multiplayer game where characters can practice footwork, socialize, and complete missions.
For more information (including classes and #TakeOffFridays), visit www.murdamommy.com.
YouTube: MurdaMommy Chicagofootwork
|(photos: Wills Glasspiegel)|
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
This process and state we are in has affected me and my projects, but on a minimal level. As an independent artist, certain movement classes and workshops that were scheduled have been canceled, along with a residency and even performances. I think with all of the unknowns, it’s all a matter of regrouping and adjusting to society. With times of uncertainty, creativity visits the mind to help regroup old plans and thoughts and reinvent them in today’s time. In a lot of ways this pandemic has evened the playing field within the dance industry; I have been dealing with limited income and opportunities for my entire dance career, and have needed to be creative in reaching people with my art. It’s something I am familiar with.
I am also part of the Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists program and, as a fellow, I have received professional and financial support, which has helped me for the past year and during this time.
Projects that I have curated recently are #TakeOffFridays: a series and giveaway that is meant to get people up and dancing and--even more so--let off pinned-up stress and anger. Each Friday for 5 weeks straight, there will be a song uploaded for the audience to dance to and record to. Each track can be downloaded for free, or a donation of the person's choice will also be accepted. At the end of the 5 weeks, the full album will be available for purchase or free. All donations will go towards food and PPE equipment to be distributed among the local urban community that I am in and that is being affected the most during this time. Another aspect of #TakeOffFridays is the fact the people will also have a chance to win $100 each week just for dancing.
I also have a 4-week movement class series that will be running during the same time as #TakeOffFridays. This class series is called Take Flight, a Chicago footwork beginners movement class that will be aired on Thursdays during the month of June via Zoom. This beginners class will also be FREE with an optional donation. Any donations received through this series will help go towards a food drive and distribution of PPE throughout my community.
Not only did I want to create a fun experience during these times, I want to give a little relief to someone else who might be in need. Musically, I also wanted to create a sound as a backdrop of how this time is feeling and how it can correlate with your vibration and frequency at that time, space, and moment.
Get more information at: www.murdamommy.com
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I began my love for footworking at a young age, around 6 or 7 years. But my dancing and my love for the arts started even younger than that--from winning local Park District dance competitions or drawing freehanded in my spare time, to writing poetry which later transformed into music, merging poetry into rap. I got my first taste of Chicago footworking from going to the Bud Billiken Parade (the largest and longest running African American Parade in the US), from Elma & Company, a local television show, and from going to juke parties that were in the neighborhood.
As I became older, I had a friend named Lazerick who used to footwork all the time, and he would show me moves from time to time. Unfortunately, he became a casualty and another young African American male slain by police. At that moment, my journey of footworking began. I set out to be an elite Footworker--to become one of the best--and I haven’t put my shoes down since.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
Currently, I’m practicing on how to connect to people many different ways, whether it’s through vibrant music or the silhouette coming from my legs. I do have a greater vision but, as of the moment, I want to take it slow--one step at a time.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about? How does your practice function within the world we have now?
I think my practice of Chicago footwork can help the world by allowing dancers to become free within their movements, due to the form’s aggressive style and up-tempo beats. It is a dance form that shows people how to control and release anger and sorrow, while also having fun doing it.
Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.
A good self-care tip that is meaningful to me is to always care for my health first. Obtain rest. Even though everything in the world is going virtual, take some time away from social media, and get in tune with your roots so your message through dance can be as pure the roots it originated from.
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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