Visiting Artist | May 22 - June 6, 2016
In Virago-Man Dem, Visiting Artist Cynthia Oliver turns her gaze toward a nuanced exploration of the masculine,probing the performance of its constituent elements’ reciprocal relationship to culture and locale. Reflecting on the core query that drives Virago-Man Dem Oliver asks, “How can/does a woman choreograph masculinity, without resorting to stereotypes but instead locate its nuances, challenges and ambiguities?”
Oliver and her collaborators, an all male cast of predominantly US-based, Afro-Caribbean dancers/performers, John Jennings (visual artist), Jason Finkelman [composer] and Fred Moten (writer) used the residency to unearth nuances, unspoken codes and overt expressions of black masculinity in both movement and spoken language. Drawing upon her extensive background in contemporary dance from Africanist and Euro-American cultural frameworks as well as her deep involvement in avant-garde theatrical traditions by black women in North America, Oliver created and directed these findings into a layered and complex choreography of non-linear movement, oral text and visual projections that move from dance to word to sound to image and back again, toward an eclectic and provocative dance theatre.
Like Virago, Oliver’s existing body of work is animated by the concerns and approaches of her scholarly research and writing, which largely probe the knowledge and material that resides at the intersection of contemporary dance, feminism, black popular culture and the expressive performances of Africans in the diaspora. Her recent interests include asserting the presence and complex negotiations of black artists in contemporary “avant-garde,” “experimental,” or neo-postmodern dance arenas. She writes on the politics of the dance scene in the US, on relations between dance and other contemporary art movements, and the lives of black women in the Caribbean as evinced by her book, “Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Womanhood in the Caribbean” published by University Press of Mississippi in 2009.
Along with dance-based research in the studio, while at MANCC Oliver and her collaborative team held follow up conversations with FSU scholars Dr. Doug Schrock (Sociology) and Dr. Patrick Mason (Economics/Director of FSU’s African American Studies program), as well as Public Intellectual/Artist Summer Hill Seven. These discussions were initiated in January, when Oliver conducted a preliminary site visit to introduce and familiarize herself with the Tallahassee community. During that site visit, she met with Will Jones and Bruce Martin, Assistant Coaches for FAMU Men's Basketball Team, Dr. Shelby Chipman, FAMU Associate Director of Bands, Cesar Lopez, Street Outreach Advocate with Capital City Youth Services and Dr. Jennifer Atkins, School of Dance Faculty, as well as with Dr. Schrock, Dr. Mason and Summer Hill Seven. Additionally, Oliver shared the work-in-progress, followed by a discussion.
Virago-Man Dem will premiere at Gibney Dance in New York in 2017. This residency was made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Collaborators in Residence: Duane Cyrus, Jonathon Gonzalez, Niall Jones and Shamar Watt [performers], Jason Finkelman [composer], John Jennings [visual artist], Fred Moten (writer)