Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-10-17
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

DANCIN' FEATS Talking with performer Okwui Okpokwasili
by Joanna Furnans
2018-03-28

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Some people think in definitives. They synthesize the complicated world around them into neatly packaged conclusions and then state those conclusions with authority. The three-time Bessie Award-winning dancer, writer and performance maker Okwui Okpokwasili is not one of those people.

"I'm not looking for answers," said Okpokwasili in a recent interview with the Windy City Times. "I'm looking for a way to keep generating questions."

Next month, Chicagoans have the opportunity to witness a performance of such questioning when Okpokwasili and her collaborator husband, Peter Born, bring their newest work, "Poor People's TV Room," to the Museum of Contemporary Art ( Thurs-Sat, April 12-14, 7:30 p.m.; Sun April 15, 2 p.m.; MCAChicago.org/Calendar ), 220 E. Chicago Ave.

This piece premiered a year ago at New York Live Arts, where Okpokwasili was the esteemed Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist during 2015-2017. For those unfamiliar with such a distinction, the Randjelovic/Stryker Residency provides one invited artist a salary, health benefits, two years of rehearsal/residency space and the commission of a new work—an award relatively unparalleled in the United States. In addition, "Poor People's TV Room" was co-commissioned by the American Dance Institute and the Walker Art Center and was granted funding from Creative Capitol, the MAP Fund, the New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project and the National Endowment for the Arts.

It doesn't get much better than this, especially for an experimental dance artist. Okpokwasili has a long history as a performer/collaborator with choreographers Ralph Lemon, Dean Moss and Nora Chipaumire as well as acting credits on both stage and screen. She was even featured in a recent Jay-Z video.

But it is specifically her probing multidisciplinary work that garners such deserved attention from contemporary performance communities. "Bronx Gothic," the 2014 tour de force solo performance—also co-directed and designed by Born—was a gut-wrenching and poetic story of two Black pre-teen girls learning to navigate their young lives amidst desire and violence. The work was also an investigation of memory and an excavation and transmission of self.

Okpokwasili continues to ask questions central to the themes in "Bronx Gothic" in the making of "Poor People's TV Room." She said, "I feel like 'Bronx Gothic' is a solo unwinding of a woman trying to come to terms with a splintered self. 'Poor People's TV Room' still has to do with different sorts of uncovering memory but it involves four Black women and has a generational span that tries to investigate who we are to each other...

"I'm always interested in memory making and how that might make a self. And what has to be undone and redone in order to have some kind of cohesive self. Or is it okay to learn to have to live with the fracture and splintering, to find a way to have some comfort in the confusion and the unknown?"

So the questioning continues. Like many works of contemporary performance, the initial spark of creative intrigue leads to extensive research that, once explored with performers, morphs in a new direction. "Poor People's TV Room" began with an investigation of a remarkable history of protest by Nigerian women, specifically the Women's War of 1929 and the more recent "Bring Back Our Girls" movement. Herself the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Okpokwasili explained that she was "thinking about what it means to be a collective and about embodied protest practices and how some of those practices were very much like performance. I guess most protest practices are a kind of public performance. [They are] an attempt to project a voice, to make a space to make an essential utterance."

With that information in mind, Okpokwasili and Born gathered collaborators—performers Thuli Dumakude, Katrina Reid and Nehemoyia Young—to begin exploring how they might relate to one another and what their collective voice could become. "The piece itself moved into something much more dreamlike as it got into the specifics of how our bodies imprint or mark on each other," she said. "We brought these women together, we had some text and some sound and some things that we were thinking about as we were considering what it meant to have these histories that were lost or that felt unrecoverable in some practical way. So [the question was] how do we make a space of generosity where we are inviting and imploring them to show us who they are?"

If this piece is anything like her previous work, audiences should expect to be steeped in an environment, both mysterious and precise, that transports our psyches through time and space to different dimensions of these women's histories and realities. There will be moments of enlightenment and moments of pain; this is not dance as entertainment. And why should it be?

For tickets to "Poor People's TV Room" and information about a screening of Andrew Rossi's documentary "Bronx Gothic," visit MCAChicago.org/Calendar .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

So You Think You Can Dance Live tour in Chicago Oct. 29 2018-10-18 - The So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 tour, based on the Fox dance-competition show, will stop at the Chicago Theatre, 175 ...


Gay News

Twelve Chicago-based LGBTQ+ performing arts organizations to perform together 2018-10-13 - CHICAGO, October 11, 2018 — Chicago Gay Men's Chorus celebrates 35 years of making music with their upcoming holiday show 35th Anniversary Holiday ...


Gay News

Martha Wash, dance-floor diva talks Chicago musical, new CD 2018-10-10 - Even those who may not heard Martha Wash's name have certainly heard her voice. From the dance classic "It's Raining Men" ( recorded ...


Gay News

And Then We Danced, A Voyage into the Groove 2018-10-10 - By Henry Alford $26; Simon & Schuster; 229 pages You can't stop your feet. They need to move, to tap-tap-tap, to ...


Gay News

The Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque 2018-10-09 - Jaq Seifert of ( sub )version productions is proud to announce the return of, THE BUTTCRACKER: A NUTCRACKER BURLESQUE© at its new location: ...


Gay News

Joffrey Ballet opens season with Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake 2018-10-06 - CHICAGO ( September 6, 2018 ) — On the heels of the highest grossing season in its history, The Joffrey Ballet opens 2018-2019 ...


Gay News

FALL DANCE PREVIEW Flamenco, swans and Sri Lankan devils 2018-09-19 - Can you smell the intermingling of chalky rosin and glistening sweat? That means one thing: It's time to put that tingle back in ...


Gay News

See Chicago Dance gala Sept. 25 2018-09-19 - See Chicago Dance ( SCD )—the dance industry's nonprofit marketing and advocacy organization—will host its fourth annual gala Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6 -10 ...


Gay News

Power ball, gala honors influential duo 2018-09-12 - See Chicago Dance ( SCD ) will celebrate a banner year at its 2018 annual gala. Among other unprecedented changes under the spotlight ...


Gay News

Jamaican trans event Sept. 7 2018-08-29 - The Jamaican Fruit & Flowers Arts Experience will take place Friday, Sept. 7, 7-10 p.m., at 5400 S. Pulaski Rd. The event will ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.