MADC presents Collective Thread
MODArts Dance Collective (MADC) presents Collective Thread provides a voice and a platform for artistic self-impression to those women/womxn identifying choreographers of underrepresented ethnic groups within the medium of dance (African, Latina/o/x, Asian, Arab, Native American [ALAANA], MENA, & SWANA). The goal of Collective Thread is to instill artists with the necessary tools to take on leadership roles in an effort to increase diversity, inclusion, and gender equality in the dance field.
Photo Caption: The headshots of 6 BIPOC womxn choreographers presenting work on March 13th (clockwise: Audrey Hubbard Madison, Mushtari Afroz, Cheri Stokes, Bre Seals, Chien-Ying Wang, & Allyson Ross).
"Da Block" (excerpt)
Choreographed by: Cheri L. Stokes with movement collaboration from the performers
Performed by: Ebone Amos, Laquan Anderson, Jasmine Booker, Kentoria Earle, Barbara Meulener, Misha Michel, Stephanie Rivas, Brooke Rucker, & Cheri L. Stokes
Music: Sound Score created by Cheri L. Stokes with editing from Daniel Smith and Logan Castro. Music Samples from: "I Wonder" by Kanye West, “Eric B. for President” by Eric B. and Rakim, “Make the Music with your Mouth Biz” by Biz Markie, “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, and “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G.
Vocals: "Rap is Poetry" by Jay-Z, Audio Interviews from Ronald and Wendy Stokes
Cheri Stokes, born and raised in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, received her M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from The Florida State University and a B.A. in Dance Studies with a K-12 Dance Teaching Licensure from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her performance background spans the genres of West African, Afro-Contemporary, Contemporary and Hip Hop dance forms. Her choreographic research examines the ways in which facets of social vernacular dance forms, specifically Hip-Hop and Dancehall, have influenced her contemporary practice and art making.
Additionally, Cheri’s expertise includes over ten years of dance education and over five years of arts administration. Presently, Cheri is part of the Urban Bush Women family serving as the Associate Producer.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? Creating dances with my friends in the neighborhood to prepare for the neighborhood block party back in the day inspired me to start choreographing. The blood, sweat, and tears we put in to create the work and the exhilarating feeling of performing the finished product, made we want to pursue dance and craft my own work.
What is your creative process? My research examines intergenerational movement aesthetics, innate movement patterns, and community dancing. Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York is the community where I was born and raised. As an African American in a predominantly black neighborhood in the ‘80s and ‘90s, my work embodies Hip-Hop vernacular from that era blended with intrinsic movement. Growing up in a black musical family, interacting with people in my community, and the evolution of Hip-Hop culture have all influenced the essence of my movement style, choreographic process, and philosophies on embodied experiences. Additionally, my work shares an alternative point of view: a black woman whose perspectives sit at the intersections of Hip- Hop and Contemporary forms.
My work is process driven with a focus on research and development. I am drawn to deeply investigating the past to shape the present (and beyond), and creating a movement language that represents my embodied experiences and histories. My process includes improvisational exploration through an African Diasporic lens, deconstruction of Hip-Hop vocabulary, and re-examination of the traditional gestures and language from my community.
Piece Description: This is an except from the evening length work "Da Block".
In “Da Block”, the audience goes on a journey through which they experience my personal history growing up in Bed-Stuy, during the emergence of 1980’s and 1990’s Hip-Hop culture. Through projections, texts, and high energy solo and ensemble work, the audience sees facets of Hip-Hop, Dancehall, and cultural aspects of African-American family history, all of which have influenced the essence of my movement style and choreographic perspective.
Social Media Handle: Instagram - @brookcee1
Choreographed & Performed by: Mushtari Afroz
Music: Music composer and vocal: Tanveer Alam Shawjeeb. We have used a small segment from late singer Bhupen Hajarika's song 'Dola he Dola' in the piece as well.
Mushtari is an exponent of North Indian Classical dance form 'Kathak'. She has trained extensively in Lucknow style of Kathak under the tutelage of Ms. Saveeta Sharma in Toronto. She has also received training in Jaipur style of Kathak from Mr. Hemant Panwar in Toronto.
In 2016 Mushtari founded Kathak Bandi Dance Collective that aims to celebrate human stories and experience through dance works that are rooted in the vocabulary of Kathak and its innovations. Since its inception the collective has created original work inspired by visual art, poetry and contemporary events that speak to the ‘Now’ and has presented them across Canada and the US. 'Shifting Normal', 'The is (NOT) a Manifesto', 'Silence Is..', ‘Resist/Co-exist’ , ‘Sunset in Fall’ ‘Emerged’ ,‘Past & Present’ are some of Kathak Bandi’s recent creations. Recently, with a research and creation grant from Canada Council for the Arts, the collective is working on a new work entitled, 'SOM' that it plans to premiere in 2022.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? ‘In an age of distractions, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.’ – Pico Iyer. The idea of creating a work on the concept of silence first emerged in year 2014 when I picked up a small TED book from Indigo at Eaton Centre. The title of the book was ‘The art of stillness: Adventures of going nowhere’ and was written by the celebrated travel writer Pico Iyer. Despite my sheer interest in creating the work around silence, I failed to do so at that time. Later I discovered why I failed. My mind was not silent. Driven by the mad rush of everyday western life, I lost touch with my inner-self. But a silent mind was necessary to create a work around this abstract concept that has been searched for, discussed and researched at length by philosophers, spiritualists, academics and many others perhaps since the beginning of human existence.
In the following years, my husband and I travelled some of the most interesting places on this planet in the spirit of adventure traveling. Amazonian rain-forest in South America, Torres Del Paine in Chilean Andes, Perito Morino Glacier in Argentina, Bornean Rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia brought me closer to nature where silence is in abundance. My mind became calm, thoughts became clearer and deeper. I felt myself small and powerless amidst the vast and silently powerful nature. The rush of modern, urban life trying to satisfy our artificially created needs seemed meaningless. At that time, I knew I experienced silence first-hand in some shape or form.
What is your creative process? I am a dancer and a choreographer trained primarily in North Indian Classical dance form ‘Kathak’ and have been practising within the South Asian dance diaspora in Toronto since early 2000. In my work, I am driven by my interest in stories - stories that are embodied, that are personal and yet universal. But to share those stories only through the classical phrases, I at one point in my choreographic journey, found myself limited by Kathak’s continuous association with the glorious past and the harmonious divinity. A new language became important to live and reflect life’s inconvenient stories in my art. My artistic practice, therefore, for the past 5 years has focused on devising a movement idiom that neither wants to be in the service of the orientalism nor does it want to poorly embrace the Western aesthetics. It aims to collapse the South Asian body principles such as grounded, breathing body with the vertical, rhythmic and almost formless undulating body of Kathak to explore new possibilities that are more suited to my contemporary reality and are equipped to express my current concerns and socio-political realities to a global audience.
Piece Description: Initially inspired by Pico Iyer’s words, ‘At some point, all the horizontal trips in the world stop compensating for the need to go deep, into somewhere challenging and unexpected; movement makes the most sense when grounded in stillness’ Mushtari began her investigation into the concept of ‘Silence’ in 2014. She asks ‘what is silence?’ Is it the state of mind where the previously imperceptible rises to the level of perception? Or is it a symbol of oppression to silence the voice of justice? Or is it merely an absence of all sound or is it actually the source of all creative impulses? Does the experience of silence vary from person to person? And finally, is our universe silent?
At Collective Thread, I am presenting an 8-min excerpt of 'Silence Is..' Over a period of 5 years I had the opportunity to explore 5 questions (above) around the concept of Silence and put them together in a collage form within its 14-min time frame. In the 8-minute excerpt, I invite the viewer to take a journey with me into the landscape of those questions - not all 5 but only 2- to engage with the work critically and with curiosity despite the aesthetic unfamiliarity and find answers for themselves whatever those might be.
Social Media Handles: Instagram - @MushtariAfroz, Facebook - @Kathak Bandi Dance Collective
Choreographed by: Allyson Ross/ SouthernBelleStories
Performed by: Allyson Ross, Amy Ashley, Tamika Daniels, & Erica Johnston
Music: Original Compositions by Alexander Levers
Allyson Ross/SouthernBelleStories is a multi-disciplinary art project using dance and choreography, original music and various artistic mediums to tell stories.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? From the moment I began dancing, I was always improvising. Before I even knew what improvisation was, I was drawn to creating new steps and exploring what my body felt it needed to say through movement. Eventually, I received more formal training in choreography and began to create pieces and present work. I am grateful that so many people I have encountered along my dance journey encouraged me to explore dance using my own movement voice to express myself through telling my own stories. I am so grateful for this gift.
What is your creative process? In my creative process, I generally come up with a concept or an idea before approaching the work. I film myself doing improvisations in the studio and often pull material from the improvisations to create dances. I then use some of the improvisations by sharing them with dancers and collaborating on making the idea come through the lens of an idea. I also love taking photographs and videos when I am outside in nature. I love how the elements in the world reflect emotions just as movement does.
Piece Description: Awakening is a work about embracing and accepting change. Changes can come suddenly or happen over time but our awakening moments in life typically allow for new vision, pathway and perspective. Conceptually, I wanted to show how awakening in the senses of the body, mind and soul is a combination of experiencing the seen and unseen world and allowing the new wisdom or understanding to come in or leave the body. It was also important for me to include the awakening of the elements in natural world happening all around us at the same time.
Social Media Handle: Instagram - @southernbellestories
Choreographed by: Audrey Hubbard Madison
Performed by: Michele Ashley, Cynthia Cummings, Angela Eargle-Bell, Sheila Kennedy, Bernadette Lewis, Rita Littrean, Angela Lomax, Jackie Davis-Manigaulte, Karen McClain Marvin, Beverly Moore, Marie Rosenberg, Frances Vidal, &Audrey Hubbard Madison
Music: Golden Days by Kem & Jill Scott
MoJazz Dance, founded by Audrey Hubbard Madison, consists of amazing women who are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, wives, friends, caretakers, educators, executive directors, nurses, psychologists, businesswomen, administrators, retirees, and community volunteers. But more importantly, MoJazz women are fabulous, dynamic, wonderfully fun-loving comrades and sisters who inspire and uplift audiences and each other, as they celebrate the joy of dance with heart and spirituality.
Audrey has been a teacher, dancer, and choreographer since she was a teenager and was an original member of the Charles Moore Dance Theater. She retired from New York City Department of Education after thirty-six years of service in both academic teaching and supervisory capacities. Additionally, Audrey is a choreographer working with Seniors as a guest artist for Dances for a Variable Population.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? When I was thirteen years old Roberta Flack's song, Trying Times, stirred me to move the living room furniture and choreograph my heart out every Saturday night.
What is your creative process? To create, I choose music and lyrics that move me, inspire me, guide me. I work with my dancers so that we all understand the intent behind our movements, so that we dance with meaning, emotion and purpose. And when necessary, I adapt. When challenges arise, I ask myself, “What do I need to do to make this work?”
Piece Description: Through each phase of life, we aspire to become our best selves. We dream big dreams, set high goals. But then there are the obstacles, that impede our path, block our way. Inspiration bubbles up inside of each of us, calling us to action. Inspiration Rises, so we can soar.
Social Media Handles: Instagram - @MoJazzDance, Facebook - MoJazz Dance
Trials To Freedom: Section III “Slave Castle”
Choreographed by: Bre Seals
Performed by: BREathe Core Dancers - Naila Brown, Stacey Smith, Ashlee McKinnon, Bianca Villatoro, Yasmeen Enahora, & Craig Kirby Jr.; Guest Ensemble - Siani Beckett, Savannah George, Olivia Jones Fields, Christen Munroe Jones, Sara Smith, Anthony Stubbs, & Nana Edu
Music: “Icefloe” - Zoe Keating, “Zong” - Rachel Portman
Bre articulates her feeling of service to the community through choreographed dancing, colorful depictions of artistry, and her spirit of joy through movement. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, she has studied ballet, modern, and contemporary. By age 18, she graduated from Tri Cities Visual Performing Arts Magnet High School and still finds herself eager to learn, evolve, and become a well-rounded choreographer. Receiving her academic dance training at the California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, California) from 2011- 2012, Howard University (Washington D.C.), 2013-2015, and The International Consortium of Advancement in Choreography (Washington D.C.) 2017-2018; she’s been granted unique opportunities to work, choreograph, and train with various international and renowned choreographers. Motivated to tell stories from her own lens and dance style, in 2013, The BREathe Dance Project was founded as a professional dance company. As an Artistic Director, Bre finds true hope and purpose in producing her own works, as it serves as a testimony and lesson to others. Expressing from the heart, the soul, and peace of artistic clarity, she is able to convey pleasure through her work as an artist, and as a woman of color who experiences synesthesia. As she embraces the ability to associate movement and sound with color, Bre is giving the opportunity to share her unique ability of experiencing the sensation of colors in a way that only her choreography can express.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? I never rely on inspiration or motivation to create movement. Everything and everyone has its own movement and/or choreography which fascinates me. Ofcourse they’re are people and different ideas that helps my choreography but movement itself sparks my creative fire.
What is your creative process? I Watch the dancer; how they’re doing the movement; and natural movement in their environment. (Inside & outside the studio) I Take notes and match colors to them. Once In the studio I give them something unusual for them to do. The focus would change to the part of the body that “struggled” or is “challenged”. I like to see what doesn’t come naturally to the dancers. I then Look for the dancers breath when they are doing something uncomfortable. “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable as a dancer.” I like to see how the dancers responds when being outside their comfort zone. Then I Let the dancers do “1” of their favorite moves (something that they love to do when dancing. Just to get it out of our system. Because nothing in this life is “ours.” We have to be ready and willing to give something, breaking barriers along the way.
Piece Description: Trials to Freedom” is a modern fusion ballet that focuses on the transition and tranquility of death through the traditional African lens. As African culture was violently uprooted from their homelands to endure the treacherous journey to slavery, the connection between the physical and spiritual world never changed. Beginning in a peaceful African village full of life and vibrancy, the slow progression of the tragic saga depicts death as a personal gain, rather than a communal loss.
Social Media Handles: Instagram - @13reathe & @_breathedance, Facebook - Bre Seals & BREathe Dance Project, Twitter - @13reathe & @breathe_dance
Choreographed by: Chien-Ying Wang in in collaboration with the dancers
Performed by: Marianna Allen, Kara Kamenski, Jose Lapaz-Rodriguez, Madison Meredith, Jessica Michal, Cynthia Pearsall, Emily Penkethman, BrieAnna Serafin, Reilly Troia, & Elena Yasin
Music by: Vincent Pierce Smith
Costume Designer: Rachel Evans
Editor and Colorist: Chien-Ying Wang
Production Coordinator: Laura Transue
Camera Operators: Walker Perry and Chien-Ying Wang
Camera Assistant: Jorge Delgado
Drone Operator: Ariel Saulog
Drone Assistant: Maka Gradin
Production Assistant: Toyin Fadahunsi
Chien-Ying Wang hails from Taiwan and is Co-Artistic Director of OcampoWang Dance. She received her MFA degree from The Ohio State University. Wang danced professionally with Utah’s Repertory Dance Theatre and was a finalist of Bogliasco Fellowship. Her performing experience includes solo roles in several ballets, plus contemporary works by Zvi Gotheiner, Gideon Obarzanek, Stephen Koester, Molissa Fenley, Douglas Nielsen, Shapiro & Smith, and many others. Wang’s choreographic works has been presented in Ballet Philippines, Lustig Dance Theatre, RDT, OSU, Boston Conservatory, National Taiwan University of Arts, Beijing Normal University (China), Ailey Citigroup Theatre, Judson Memorial Church, 92nd Street Y, Cultural Center of the Philippines, amongst others.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? Since the pandemic started, my family has been trying to go outdoor and be with nature every day. During the weekend, we would pick up specific places/locations to visit. I loved seeing things through the camera's viewfinder. It created a lot of possibilities. We experimented with different movements in different locations and tried different camera angles. That was how I got inspired/motivated in the first place.
What is your creative process? My creative process started with zoom rehearsals with the dancers. It was challenging to teach materials through zoom and give details of the movement phrases through a zoom setting. Also, it was difficult for the dancers to adapt the movements in their own tiny space. After completing all the COVID-19 testing protocol, we were able to rehearse outdoor with masks and social distancing, which made the rehearsal/creative process easier. The dancers also had opportunities to practice/perform the choreography in relationship to the locations. Furthermore, since the final product was a dance film, besides working with the dancers, I also needed to communicate/work with the composer, costume designer, and film crew. All communications were done through zoom meetings. I was fortunate to work with artists who were equally passionate about what they do. The whole production team was so efficient to get things done before the weather got too cold. I greatly appreciate this opportunity to be given an alternative way to conduct creative research in this unusual time.
Piece Description: This film In Between is the product of pondering the anatomy of certainty and uncertainty. Looking at nature, one day the trees are there and the next day they are chopped down in the name of development. In observing humanity’s existential struggles and the search for sustainability, there is constant shifting between opposite states. From having a job to being jobless, having a home to being homeless, having identity to loss of identity, being with a loved one to loss of a loved one. This film presents an abstract portrayal of this ever-changing swing between certainty and uncertainty in human life, the natural environment, society, the world and even the universe.
Social Media Handles: Facebook - OcampoWang Dance
Nina Remixed (excerpts)
Choreographed by: Leah Tubbs & the artists of MADC
Performed by: Veronica Cheeseboro, Shoshana Mozlin, Sharayah Spruill, Courtney Stewart, Leah Tubbs, Imani Michael Vieira, & Nayanika Vyas
Music: Nina Simone's See-Line Woman & Save Me
Leah Tubbs, a Birmingham, Alabama native & Harlem resident, studied dance at Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. She has performed with various dance companies in Alabama, Ohio, California, Texas, and New York. MODArts Dance Collective (MADC), established in 2011 by Leah and Shaun Tubbs, gives a voice to the underrepresented and often silenced communities of color to create more empathy and compassion in our world. The mission of MADC is to utilize movement as the catalyst to increase inclusion,
diversity and gender equality to audiences and communities nationwide.
What or Who inspired/motivated you to start choreographing? I remember having a notebook in elementary school that I would write movement in, rehearse in my room, and share the movement with my friends after church or dance class. As a child I wanted to use my movement to bring people together. And as I grew up and worked professionally as a dance artist, I’ve sought to foster a community amongst my colleagues based around shared goals and common interests, as well as create a space where audiences can feel safe to connect and fellowship with those artists. To me, my choreography, has become a necessary vehicle to assist the underrepresented to be seen and heard.
What is your creative process? I am reminded of my lineage knowing that I stand on the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of people who placed me where I am at this moment. Community is the driving force behind what I create to celebrate and honor my ancestors and elders. They will always be leading my footsteps as I move in my purpose and life’s work. I come to them with questions that bubble up to the surface when I start choreographing a piece: What is your heart wanting to say? Will the work speak to people of color (POC)? Is it true to your point of view? Will the work provide a safe space for POCs to commune? The answers can be clear and direct sometimes while other times it takes me to reimagine or dissect past works to see the answers unfold in front of me.
Piece Description: Nina Remixed is the result of me fully embracing my body, seeing myself as a sexual being, and being transparent about the ebb & flow of being a black woman. The piece has been reimagined and reworked to highlight the different alliterations of the creative process and celebrate the tenacity of the artists despite the pandemic and the world’s increase of awareness towards racial injustice.
Social Media Handles: Instagram & Twitter - @ModArts_Dance, Facebook - MODArts Dance Collective
Gratitude & Support
MADC would like to thank our donors & Patreon supporters: Anonymous (3), Sharon Banks, Paul Brill, William-Michael Cooper, Zoe Correa, Mallory Creveling, Megan Curet, Lindi Duesenberg, Joy Hanks, Sarah Horne, Bri Jenkins, Rachel Kuczynski, Karen & Brian Lowy, Jeffery Martin, Susan Mende, Leila Mire, Jessica Mosher, Sophie Parens, Tanya Patton, Joya Powell, Chatiera Ray, Tammeca Rochester, Nathaniel Rutledge, Harriette Smiley, Laronica Southerland, Charis Travlos, Laura Tubbs, & Monse Valdez.
MADC is a sponsored project through Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Assist us in continuing to be an agent of social change and amplifying BIPOC voices through movement. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, become a Patreon patron, purchase an item from MADC's Etsy shop, or discover other ways to support the company.