Summary of 2015-16 Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies

A summary of the 2015-16 Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies appears in the Department of Theater and Performance Studies’ annual newsletter. It can be viewed on Scribd here. The text appears below.

Thank you to all of the inspiring scholars and artists who came to Stanford to share their work, and to all of those who showed up to support it and engage with it.

Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies: Dance, Racism, and Resistance

By Rachel Carrico

 As the 2015-16 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities, I assumed the responsibility of organizing the Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies. Last year, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Joanna Dee Das inaugurated this guest speaker series in the Dance Division. Building on that strong foundation, and with additional support from Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, I organized this year’s series around the theme of “Dance, Racism, and Resistance.” The meetings provided thoughtful spaces to engage with research at the intersection of critical race studies and dance studies. I invited scholars and choreographers working in the Bay Area and beyond to share new work and to reflect upon seldom-told histories with students and faculty from Stanford and nearby institutions, and with interested listeners from Stanford’s surrounding communities.

In January, Imani Kai Johnson, Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California-Riverside, delivered a lecture entitled “The Global Cypher? Black Sociality, Soulful Allies, and a Truly Global Culture.” Dr. Johnson shared new work that she is developing for her book manuscript, Dark Matter in B-Boying Cyphers. By showing video of the 2006 “Battle of the Year” in Germany, Johnson showed us how b-boying takes shape in global arenas, and by playing audio clips of her interview with prominent b-girl Rockafella, she revealed the racial, national, and gendered tensions that exist amongst breakers who both celebrate and feel anxious about b-boying’s global spread. In this new writing, Johnson suggested that when Africanist aesthetics motivate dancing in the cypher—when dancers respond to rhythm, connect to the collective, and build on repetitions—black social values persist even when non-black people break.

Clare Croft, Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Michigan, visited the Colloquium in February to talk about her recently published book, Dancers as Diplomats: American Choreographers in Cultural Exchange (Oxford 2015). Croft reflected on her process of researching the book both in archives and through interviews. She suggested how the dance scholar can (and often should) center race in research agendas, especially when racism is not flagrant. Speaking of the “mundaneness” of bureaucracies like the State Department, Croft teased out the ways in which racism lives in arts policy and impacts dancers’ daily practices. She recounted moments when her research uncovered bureaucratic biases— in State Department notes on Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, and Martha Graham—and instances of everyday oppression—when interviewing Arthur Mitchell. Croft concluded with a sneak peek into the ways that she is centering race in her new research on dance critic and lesbian activist Jill Johnston.

The month of March featured two guests. On March 1, Latanya d. Tigner, a choreographer with the Oakland-based Dimensions Dance Theater (DDT), discussed the company’s “Legacy of Staged Protest.” Since 1973, DDT has been making dances that emerge from socially and politically charged events throughout the African Diaspora. Tigner’s presentation allowed us to view rarely seen footage of DDT’s early works—in fact, we dusted off the VCR for the occasion! Tigner showed and discussed excerpts from To March (1992), which highlights women’s experiences in the Civil Rights Movement, and Project Panther: Phase I (1996), which honors the Black Panther’s activism in Oakland. Tigner discussed the company’s current process to recreate Project Panther in honor of the Panthers’ forty-year anniversary. Finally, we saw a piece of DDT’s recent work, The Town on Notice (2015), which looks at Oakland’s gentrification. In a mere ninety minutes, Tigner provided an inspirational model for dance and social change by sharing the ways in which DDT has been combating racism through dance in the Bay Area for more than forty years.

Later in the month, the Colloquium welcomed Anthea Kraut, a distinguished scholar in the field of dance, to share material from her hot-off-the-presses book, Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property in American Dance (Oxford 2016). Kraut, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Dance Department at the University of California-Riverside, began her talk where her book ends: with Beyoncé Knowles’ 2011 music video, “Countdown.” From Beyoncé to blackface minstrel performer Johnny Hudgins to Gypsy chorus girl Faith Danes, Kraut traced the history of efforts to assert copyright protection for choreography in the United States and teased apart their raced and gendered politics. While Kraut confessed that she can make no definitive recommendations for revising copyright laws, she can firmly stand behind Beyoncé for flipping the script that has long authorized white artists to take from non-white and “high art” to borrow from “low.”

Umi Vaughan closed out this year’s Colloquium with a multimedia performance-lecture in the Prosser Theater entitled “Drum Talk, Rebel Dance.” Vaughan, an anthropologist at Cal State Monterey Bay and an accomplished drummer, dancer and photographer, combined all of his talents to share his research into music and dance in the African Diaspora. Given Vaughan’s extensive anthropological research in Cuba, his presentation proved timely as we think about the role of dance in mediating the rapidly shifting contours of U.S.-Cuba relations.

The 2015-16 Colloquium built on the momentum generated last year to establish a “Dance Studies West” cohort. With the support of multiple centers across Stanford’s campus, and through collaborations with UC Berkeley’s Dance Studies Working Group, the Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies continues to generate enthusiasm for the relevance of dance to the humanities and social sciences. As one undergraduate Stanford dancer expressed, “I am so incredibly thankful to be able to participate in this programming” because, for her, it made links between “physical movement and social movements, between race and the history of dance.”

 

May 9: Umi Vaughan on Dance & Social Justice in Cuba and Beyond

Drum Talk, Rebel Dance

Umi Vaughan, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay

Monday, May 9

  • 5:30-7:00 PM
  • Memorial Hall, Prosser Theater (2nd Floor)*

akpwonThis multimedia performance lecture explores the importance of music and dance in African Diaspora cultures. Dr. Umi Vaughan will use examples from his experience as a researcher, percussionist, and dancer in Oakland, Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere to examine concepts such as improvisation, collective memory/action, redemption/healing, and cultural counter attack in relation to survival and social justice struggle in black communities.

*Note the location change!

For a map of Prosser Studio Theater and nearby free parking options, click here. To map directions on Google maps, click here.

This event is free, but please register by emailing rcarrico@stanford.edu.

The Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies is sponsored by the Mellon “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” initiative and is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It receives administrative support from Stanford’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and additional funding from Stanford’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

March 29: Anthea Kraut on Choreographing Copyright

Anthea Kraut

Associate Professor of Dance and Chair of the Dance Department, University of California, Riverside

Choreographing Copyright

Tuesday, March 29

  • 5:30-7:00 PM
  • Memorial Auditorium 125

Choreographing CopyrightThis talk rehearses the major arguments that Kraut makes in her recently published Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance (Oxford University Press, 2016).  In the book, Kraut traces the history of efforts to assert copyright protection for choreography in the United States and teases apart their raced and gendered politics.  The talk will highlight the stories of some of the major and minor players involved in those efforts.  It will also underscore the importance of choreographic copyright for thinking through questions about dance’s reproducibility and for confronting the ways whiteness has functioned as a property-like right in the U.S.

For a campus map, click here. For directions, click here. There is free parking on Memorial Drive. For a map, please click here.

This event is free, but please register by emailing rcarrico@stanford.edu.

The Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies is sponsored by the Mellon “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” initiative and is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It receives administrative support from Stanford’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and additional funding from Stanford’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

March 1: Latanya d. Tigner on Staging Protest

Latanya d. Tigner

Choreographer; Coordinator of Dimensions’ Rites of Passage program for youth; and Director, Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble

Dimensions Dance Theater: A Legacy of Staged Protest

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

5:30-7:00 PM

Conference Room: Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity; Main Quad, Building 360, Room 361 J/K*

Project Panther
Poster for Dimensions Dance Theater’s “Project Panther, Phase 1” (1996)

Through video and discussion, Latanya d. Tigner will share Oakland based Dimensions Dance Theater’s legacy of manifesting art emerged from socially and politically charged catalytic events throughout the African Diaspora that have resulted in mass movements to action.  Project Panther: Phase I, To March, Common Ground, and the most recent, The Town on Notice, and several other works brought to the stage the struggles, resistance, resilience and hopes of marginalized communities.

*Note the location change!

For a campus map, click here. For directions, click here. There is free parking on Memorial Drive. For a map, please click here.

This event is free, but please register by emailing rcarrico@stanford.edu.

The Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies is sponsored by the Mellon “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” initiative and is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It receives administrative support from Stanford’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and additional funding from Stanford’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

More information on Dimensions: Event after monumental event has provided artistic fodder for the company to examine and create works of art that reflect the grand possibilities of life as human beings through the lens of the African experience. Dimensions repertory includes works that paid tribute to a variety of still topical issues like: Black Power and Black Arts Movements: The company’s first piece, My People (1973), choreographed by Barnes, was an ode to the beauty in Blackness. Set to the Langston Hughes poem of the same name, My People was the first piece performed by an African American dance company in the Bay Area to live recitation. Civil Rights Movement: To March, created in 1992 in collaboration with a capella singing group Street Sounds and actor Winston Williams, brought to life familiar and not so familiar stories of the Civil Rights movement such as the speeches Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered regarding the Vietnam War. Apartheid: People of the Zozos, an incredible collaboration with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, examined the everyday lives of South Africans residing in Shanty towns and the similarities to Jim Crow South (1991). This work premiered a year after the South African government freed Nelson Mandela. Black Panther Party: Vaughan collaborated with former Black Panthers, to celebrate the Party’s 30th anniversary. Project Panther premiered in 1996 as the first interdisciplinary piece to acknowledge the important contributions the Panthers made to Oakland and ultimately the nation. The Rodney King verdict/death of Latasha Harlins: Dimensions reached out to Lily Cai Chinese Dance company to create Common Ground in 1994 with hopes of showing both communities of people the similarities of their cultures through dance. Black on Black crime epidemic/Hip Hop: The esteemed Dimensions on stage with a hip hop group? Why not? Seen Scenes featured the hip hop flows and storytelling of urban griots The College Boyz. Drawing on traditional West African dance and spirituality, modern dance and hip hop, this work revisions the tragedy of a drive-by shooting, demonstrating how communities can right societal ills by utilizing ancestral knowledge.

Now 40 years strong, Dimensions continues to create work that pulls communities together. Down the Congo Line, the culmination of which will premiere October 5, bridges four communities, Brazilian, Congolese, African American and Cuban through their Congolese lineage. This multi-year collaboration, one of several, reinforces the company’s purpose to preserve and perpetuate African and African derived dance forms. With the continued dedication of the company members, community and the strength of the organization’s artistic offerings, Dimensions definitely has another 40 years coming.

February 9: Clare Croft on Centering Race in Dance Research

Clare Croft

Assistant Professor of Dance, University of Michigan

Centering Race in Dance Research:

Dancers as Diplomats in the Archive and the Interview

Croft front coverIn this talk, dance historian and theorist Clare Croft, author of the recently published Dancers as Diplomats: American Choreography in Cultural Exchange  (Oxford 2015), considers how dance research requires a specific attunement to questions of race and racism. How does dance research locate racism among bodies? In the archive? In interviews? Croft considers these questions in relationship to the archival work, performance analysis, and 70+ interviews with dancers that form the spine of Dancers as Diplomats, while also gesturing toward how these questions might guide her new work on dance critic and lesbian activist Jill Johnston.

 

Tuesday, February 9

2:30-4:00 PM*

Memorial Auditorium, Room 125

Stanford University

*Note the time change!

For a campus map, click here. For directions, click here. There is free parking on Memorial Drive. For a map, please click here.

This event is free, but please register by emailing rcarrico@stanford.edu.

The Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies is sponsored by the Mellon “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” initiative and is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It receives administrative support from Stanford’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and additional funding from Stanford’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Jan. 25: Imani Kai Johnson on the Global B-Boy Cypher

Imani Kai Johnson

Assistant Professor of Dance, University of California-Riverside

The Global Cypher? Black Sociality, Soulful Allies, and a Truly Global Culture

ImaniJohnsonIn this talk, Dr. Imani Kai Johnson will present excerpted material from her manuscript, Dark Matter in B-Boying Cyphers. Her work explores Africanist aesthetics within b-boying culture, and uses the metaphor of dark matter–the physics concept for invisible matter–to discuss the substantive impact of invisiblized black culture. This talk builds on previously published work on the global context of breaking by examining the stakes of a discourse of globality, and the frictions of working across differences to enact moments of global connection within cyphers.

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Memorial Auditorium, Room 125

Stanford University

For a campus map, click here. For directions, click here. There is free parking on Memorial Drive. For a map, please click here.

This event is free, but please register by emailing rcarrico@stanford.edu.

The Stanford Colloquium on Dance Studies is sponsored by the Mellon “Dance Studies in/and the Humanities” initiative and is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It receives administrative support from Stanford’s Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), and additional funding from Stanford’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.