Workshop Mission Statement:
The body carries history and is burdened and inscribed with meaning. Issues of civil and racial inequality, gender identity and rights, war and aggression have a long and vivid history in dance. Historically, choreographers have tackled controversial issues through dance in many ways guided by the underlying belief in the art form’s unique ability to stimulate debate, draw people together, and ultimately initiate changes in outlook and perspective. There are multiple cultural, socio-economic and creative influences that contribute to this kind of artistic work. With this in mind, we will explore the dimensions and implications of ‘technique’/’performance’/’art’ through the lens of African Diasporic expressive culture. Participants are challenged to deepen their attention to the expressive potential of the body and socio-cultural significance of movement. As a result, participants gain strategies for perceiving, learning, and interpreting choreography invested in liberatory aesthetics, and for cultivating an individual point of view.
Educational outreach and residency activities are a vital component of my artistic mission and one of the primary ways I feel my work thrives. Residencies can last from one day to entire semesters and can include setting movement from sections of the dance theatre X’s repertory on participants.
Kinetic Storytelling (a devising workshop) 1 to 2 hours
Kinetic Storytelling is a workshop in dance-based theater that is at once highly structured compositional improvisation (or precision choreography), lyrical word-weaving, graceful, poetic and at times playful. By layering cultural mythologies, folktales and contemporary social issues with African Diasporic sensibilities, kinetic storytelling is an exciting blend of storytellingand physical theater intended to engage issues of social justice and the challenges of cross-cultural discourse. Drawing upon methodologies used by Dance Theatre X to develop our work, workshop participants are encouraged to expand their “kinesthetic vocabulary” in order to expand expressive range and to further investigate the elusive ideas of ‘identity’ and ’presence’ in performance.
Afro-Contemporary Physical Practices (a contemporary dance master class) 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Drawing upon an eclectic training background in Pan-African and western contemporary dance techniques as well as his ‘upbringing’ in New York City dance clubs, Anderson’s class focuses on the fusion of contemporary dance with African-derived physical practices.Through repetition, learned sequences of movement will accumulate, provoking greater awareness, specificity, clarity and presence at each performance. The ongoing physical work will be to understand and achieve dynamic alignment, improved strength, flexibility, endurance, rhythmic acuity and multidimensionality in one’s dancing. Each dancer’s task will be to use his/her unique structure to conduct movement/research; daily practice provides the opportunity for growth through trial and error, risk-taking, and analysis. So what are the inherent benefits and challenges of studying such a broad and continually shifting art form and how do they impact our bodies in motion/in performance? You will be expected to demonstrate a mature commitment to the exploration of a highly eclectic physical practice informed by pan-African and African Diasporic vernacular dance. Participants should plan to dance, sweat and be inspired!
Bearing Witness (pre- or post-performance discussions with Charles O. Anderson) 1/2 hour to 1 hour
I believe that my work asks the audience to be active viewers rather than passive spectators, not necessarily in any DIY (do-it-yourself) “audience participation” kind of way, but in the way that the work asks essential questions about what the role of performance is or can be- especially performance with an ever critical eye upon race, gender, sexuality, cultural aesthetics and representation. What is the power of sitting in a room together, especially now at this moment in time? Does the opinion of white audience members matter more than that of audience members of color? What about intergenerational differences in interpretation? I am interested in subverting audience expectations, challenging them to examine their own assumptions and instincts (about dance, about society, about how race functions in their understanding of the world, etc.), to perceive how they might identify with and even become the alienator, dominator, and oppressor even when they subscribe to the idea of freedom and democracy. That being said, my goal is always to create discourse and forge community. Through the process of bearing witness, I try to create a context where we can take the work seriously while not taking ourselves so seriously…In other words, before, during, and after one of our performances we aim to make sure everybody has a good time- not necessarily an easy time, but a good one…
Bearing Witness Testimonials:
“The message I took from the piece is that change is ALWAYS. We don’t need to survive it or seek it; we simply need to see that it is always here and then figure out how we’re going to ride the wave. I got that apocalypse can be creative destruction – it gives us our work to do – and that it can give birth to great leaders whom we then promptly forget to listen to because we’re so busy redefining the change so that we don’t need them anymore. The primary sensation I had in watching the piece is that it was giving me a way to contextualize the pain of dislocation. And by contextualize I mean process, experience, imagine, embody and ultimately accept.” –Audience member response to the performance of Evidences of Things Unsaid (Philadelphia performance, 2010)
“I think you gave the audience way too much for credit for not questioning your use of African Dance to tell a story racism. It’s you that deserves credit for this. In actuality, I think what you’ve done is to demonstrate that this form of dance is the best way to tell this story. In this sense it seems so normal to see dancers narrate this experience with these sorts of movements. There’s nothing to question when it just seems “right.” Your work inspires the audience to accept what is usually considered marginal (African Dance) as supremely appropriate. Also, you’ve centered African Dance in such a way that it seems universal or the “standard,” if you will, so that it becomes unmarked as “African” even though it’s clear that it is. I love that you did not have to hit people over the head with this; you managed to integrate an African experience, art and sensibility so seamlessly into what is essentially a story of humankind! By doing this, you’ve make the case that humankind is quintessentially African.” – Audience member response to performance of TAR (Philadelphia performance, 2007)