UBW Partnership Fellow | Site Visit March 20 - 22, 2018 // August 26 - September 5, 2018
Memoirs of a...Unicorn
Marjani Forté-Saunders and sound designer Everett Saunders came to MANCC for a post-production residency to revisit and restructure their work Memoirs of a...Unicorn. Inspired by her father, a sci-fi enthusiast, and the simultaneous events of becoming pregnant with her son and the murder of Eric Garner, Forté-Saunders poses a set of questions about the impact of historic inequities on families, children, and our collective futures.
Forté-Saunders writes “there are so many stories left behind in the arduous journeys of migration, immigration, and surviving legitimized, systemic violence and oppression … if we knew the stories of our forebears how might we ‘fly’ differently?” Memoirs of a...Unicorn will weave historic and personal narratives into an embodied tale of fragmented histories, abiding love, and metaphysical warriorship.
Forté-Saunders came to Tallahassee for a 2.5 day site visit in March 2018, during which she met with cultural leaders from the African-Caribbean Dance Theatre, Florida Folklife Program, Mitchell Young Anderson Museum (Thomasville, GA), John G. Riley House, FAMU Black Archives, and 621 Gallery, with the connecting support of dancemaker, cultural activist and Tallahassee resident Millicent Johnnie.
While in residence, Forté-Saunders furthered the dramaturgical elements of the piece, an evening-length solo, with mentorship from Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, renowned choreographer/founder of Urban Bush Women and FSU’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Dance. Composer Everett Saunders continued refinement of the sound score for the work, and was mentored by FSU’s Associate Professor, Douglas Corbin, who has worked with Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham, American Ballet Theatre, and the Ailey School, and has made dozens of recordings for dance in the U.S. and Europe. In addition, Forté-Saunders explored creating more portable set structures for touring while at MANCC.
Forté-Saunders shared her work with Florida State University students and faculty as well as the Tallahassee community during multiple showings both on the FSU campus and at Tallahassee’s 621 Gallery. Forté-Saunders also taught a master class at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), considered a premiere school among historically black colleges and universities in the U.S..
As a part of MANCC’s Embedded Writers Initiative, Forté-Saunders and her collaborators were joined by writer and Doris Duke Performing Artist Sharon Bridgforth. Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this initiative is designed to support the re-imagining of dance writing conventions in order to better respond to and engage with a wider range of ever-evolving contemporary forms. Additionally, funds were provided by the Sustainable Arts Foundation to support Forté-Saunders as a parent artist.
This residency represents the start of a new partnership program with the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s (CCI) Choreographic Fellowship program. CCI utilizes a two-pronged approach that advances the work of individual women choreographers from the African Diaspora while bringing about systemic change in the field of dance. As part of this partnership, three UBW Choreographic Fellows conduct pre-residency site visits to MANCC followed by creative residencies, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.