In November, CFA’s Department of Dance invited an extraordinary collaboration thanks to the Lydia Hao Emerging Artists Program, welcoming Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis of Wideman/Davis Dance to campus for a week-long intensive residency. As part of this residency, Wideman/Davis choreographed dances for our dance students and presented lectures, engaging in dialogues about the history of dance and the influence of slave/plantation culture on the American aesthetic and artistic legacy in dance. They also led intensive master classes contemporary ballet technique over the course of the week.
Established within LMU’s College of Communication and Fine Arts by Lydia Hao, the Emerging Artists Program recognizes the contributions of artists on campus and identifies emerging national and international artists. As the program has evolved, connections have been forged between these artists and LMU students and faculty artists, and have enhanced teaching and creative work in CFA’s visual and performing arts program.
Wideman/Davis Dance is deeply committed to revealing social and political issues through an African-American perspective, making work that is inspired by and engaged with current issues including race, social class, gender, and location. The goal of the company is to connect with communities of all ages through residencies and by increasing their awareness of these social and political issues, and the ways in which those issues play out in today’s world. In designing residencies, the company seeks to create environments for participants that cultivate their potential and empower them to change. Wideman-Davis and Davis are also both Associate Professors at the University of South Carolina.
Wideman/Davis Dance choreographed two pieces, one that the company performed in the dedicated Emerging Artists Concert, and another for the students, which was performed both in the Emerging Artists Concert and as part of the Fall Dance Concert. The piece performed by Wideman/Davis Dance was entitled Untitled (Spatializing Blackness) and separated-released-reunified was choreographed on the LMU students as part of the teaching residency.
As described by Associate Professor of Dance Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, “Untitled (Spatializing Blackness) is a collaborative dance-theater work that lies at the intersection of poetry and reportage about the stark realities of race relations today. Grounded in stories of police brutality that sparked the Black Lives Matter Movement, Untitled (Spatializing Blackness) gives an abstract, symbolic, and poetic treatment, in both text and movement, to the cold, hard facts of what it can mean to be black in America.”
“Inspired by the six-week period in April and May of 2018 when nearly 2000 children were separated from their families and detained under the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal immigration, separated-released-reunified is an ensemble dance piece intended to turn our attention to the very first step in the systematic disenfranchisement of a group of people, the breaking apart of the familial bond. Highlighting the precedent that began 400 years ago with African slaves entering this country and has carried on today with migrants, separated-released-reunified asks us all to experience “blackness,” and recall what it felt like, as children, the first time we got lost or separated from our own parents.”