As a mother, a wife, and dance artist arranging to be at the Institute was quite a feat. It required taking off my make-ends-meet job, my New Yorker born, now Greensboro based husband, finding alternative transportation to work, and my daughter, Madison, spending a lot of time with her Nana, and a little time at a new Child Care Center in the early evenings.
I attended the Institute because I had questions. Questions about how to draw people in to my work about race instead of push people away. It’s easy to make work for shock value that horrifies people. It’s another to pull people into an uncomfortable conversation and leave them changed or at least thinking differently.
The Institute’s topic of Facing Race, specifically in America was sort of a microcosm of my question. People of different generations, neighborhoods, races, genders, all came together to find away to promote racial equity in their organization, in their artwork, activism, or within themselves.
On the third day of the workshop we saw a one man play at the Woolly Mammoth Theater about the life of Rodney King. Afterward, we participated in a workshop with others from the public, to experience our reaction to the play through a movement experience.
We found gestures and text that stuck with us, we worked with partners, we observed. It was heavy. Rodney King’s life is a great example of how complicated human beings are and how complicated discussing race in America is. Finally, we had a shifting moment in the room where we just started singing and the tears started flowing. We allowed ourselves to feel.
This experience, in concert with many others throughout the week, encapsulates my next steps. I have a clearer idea of how to draw people into my work.
My challenge is to find ways to allow my audience to become a participant in the work and not just an observer. I felt indifferent about the play after first seeing it, but it wasn’t until I allowed myself to embody it through song, through movement, through text that I felt inside of it. My challenge is to bring my audience members inside my work. I am not sure exactly how to do this, but it is an exciting challenge and I can’t wait to get right to it.
I have a laundry list of tools and “aha” moments that I can’t wait to explore with my dance company JOYEMOVEMENT this fall. I am a truly honored that I was able to participate in this experience. I posted this on Facebook during the Institute: “I am feeling supported, needed, appreciated, valued, and important this week. Hoping to carry these feelings with me always.”
–Alexandra Joye Warren, Founding Artistic Director of JOYEMOVEMENT, a dance company