(Re)current Unrest is an evening length immersive performance installation ‘ritual’ built upon the sonic foundation of Steve Reich’s three earliest works: “It’s Gonna Rain” (parts 1 and 2), “Come Out” and “Pendulum.” The piece is an investigation of legacy, authorship, and the history of black art and protest through the lens of the erasure of the Africanist presence inside of Reich’s compositions.
Reich spent a great deal of time studying African music forms, and “Come Out” samples interview tapes of Daniel Hamm, one of six black men (referred to as the Harlem Six) falsely accused of murder and brutalized by police in 1964. The work, which helped Reich rise to fame, was praised for its composition and political resonance. But Hamm’s voice, and the historical context of racial injustice, is often lost to the formal innovations of the composition. These facts are further obscured when the work is used as the score for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s “Fase” and problematized further in Beyoncé’s use of De Keersmaeker’s choreography for her music video “Countdown.”
I began creating movement from this starting point in 2016. Shortly after, one of my freshman dance students at the University of Texas, Haruka Weiser, was murdered. Between that tragedy (committed by a young African American man) and the ongoing systematic killing of black men by law enforcement in this country, the piece took on larger dimensions than just these issues of cultural appropriation.
Over a two year development period, the piece has become a meditation on the “American Dream” and Black nihilism, borne of the current racially charged moment. Choreographically, (Re)current Unrest explores the kinesthetic state of unrest–the condition of unease, discontent, and social disturbance. This physical state of agitation represents ‘staying woke.’ To stay woke refers to an intangible level of awareness about community issues and social justice.
Link to immersive promo: