Archiving Black Performance: Memory, Embodiment, and Stages of Being
Ohio State Dance’s Dance Notation Bureau Extension Center for Education and Research, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center; and the African American and African Studies Community Extension Center received a $100,000 Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme (GAHDT) Centers Grant, for its project: Archiving Black Performance: Memory, Embodiment, and Stages of Being. This project represents a collaborative effort to establish a vision for the transmission of identity and race through the embodiment of dance repertory acquisition of internationally acclaimed black women dance performers during the 2021-23 academic years that will bring together students, faculty, community, and internationally-acclaimed dance professionals.
The project leadership group: Adélékè Adéèkó, Nadine George-Graves, Crystal Perkins, Valarie Williams, and Lawrence (Larry) Williamson, Jr.
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Archiving Black Performance: Memory, Embodiment, and Stages of Being establishes a vision for the transmission of identity and race through the embodiment of repertory acquisition of internationally acclaimed black women performers. We aim to elevate, via performance, oral history, archival research, summer workshops, digital preservation and communication methods, and publication, historic dances of black women performers as represented through black lives and black bodies. We will focus on solo, duet, and small group works staged, performed, or choreographed by/for black women early in the creation process. Faculty and students will engage through performing the dances, participating in symposia and lecture-demonstrations, conducting interviews about the historic nature of the dance’s performances, and teaching what they’ve learned in a community-focused summer workshop. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center; the African American and African Studies Community Extension Center; and the Dance Notation Bureau Extension Center for Education and Research will collaborate in design and implementation of presenting, programming and outcomes.
Collaborators include the following: Assistant Professor Crystal Perkins is nationally recognized for performance and presenting one of the nation’s top regional Black dance companies; Professor Valarie Williams has returned to faculty to reinvigorate the DNBExt and lead its mission of the preservation of dance through multiple media; Professor of Theatre and Chair of Dance Nadine George-Graves is nationally recognized for her leadership in advancing dance studies; Director Larry Williamson, Jr. brings perspective and nationally recognized strategies for promoting and organizing black cultural artifacts with Hale; Distinguished Humanities Professor Adélékè Adéèkó brings the lived experience of the cultural context surrounding some of the global dances and leadership of the AAAS Community Extension Center.
As the academy reframes its vision and connection to local communities and value to new generations of diverse scholars, it is imperative to participate in the design and development of easily accessible scholarship that will support future research. Intersecting disciplines of dance studies, black studies, preservation and archival research, aligned and useful to interdisciplinary public-facing activity, will impact the development and accessibility of intellectually responsive creative activity across the globe. While the project includes a number of invitations for participating scholars to contextualize the project’s research, we are most excited about the creation of an oral history archive — At the Feet of The Elders – podcasted from the Hale Center. African Diaspora communities hold a deep connection to elder wisdom and ancestral legacy, and this audio archive invites the black women performers and scholars to discuss the futures and histories of black women in performance. It does the necessary work of cataloguing their stories, memories, and vantage points on equitable human existence through the arts. The final recordings will be available through the DNBExt website where many of its hallmark research projects reside.
The project centers engagement with internationally admired artists within black dance aesthetics and proposes the development of a Summer Institute for Black Dance Performance to increase the possible impact of the project on the field. Students will engage with important figures in African Diaspora dance for artistic development and unique creative research activities. During the inaugural summer, Department of Dance students will serve as summer assistants, along with 4 to 6 dance artists from the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) who will conduct movement practice classes, lecture demonstrations, and performances in conversation with AAAS Community Extension Center and the Frank W. Hale, Jr Black Cultural Center.
 DCDC is an internationally renowned black dance legacy institution founded by McArthur Genius award winner, Jeraldyne Blunden (1968). They have been a recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Arts and the coveted New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for their commitment to the legacy of black performers and choreographers in American dance.