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  • Nicole (Johnson) Williams

23. Aeaea Project - 22

About a month ago, I wrote about a new piece I'd been working on. Its submission had been accepted for presentation at the Detroit Dance Exchange, but after a summer full to the brim with closure and affirmation, showing it this evening for feedback was a lower priority than I had initially expected... so we pulled it.

As an educator, I equip my students with the technique and theory necessary to sustain their artistry. As an artist, I inhale my own lived experience and breathe life into a story that you can see, hear, and feel all at once. As an activist, I first recognize that the intimate, and oh so communal, story of the Black woman is intentionally and systemically excluded from the threads of our American history; then I have the courage to use that technique, theory, and experience to leave my own initials etched in the tree of Life. Proof... that I BE'd here. A radical act of Be-ing infused with the stories, songs, recipes, rhythms, philosophies, and techniques of those who have come before me and also those who share the space and time with me now.

I live this life as an Educator, an Artist, and an Activist.

Below are some rehearsal clips from the piece I would have presented tonight at the Detroit Dance Exchange. In deciding to pull the piece I realized that the real commodity was the process. Finally having the resources (a continuation of pay throughout the summer in Detroit with Black and Brown dancers, opportunities to learn from , grown with, and be connected to other dance professionals who are challenging and reimagining the craft, AND access to incredible facilities in which to work) necessary to focus my energy on this process was a blessing for which I am forever grateful. In working this piece over the summer, I realized that I've never really had the time (the ultimate resource) to extract a piece of art that is purely of my own soul and not commissioned for a price to serve some other purpose.

I am so looking forward to continuing to uncover this work. I'd like to work in residency with Black and Brown dancers participating in regular technical development, social connection, and ethnographic exploration in the next stages of its evolution. I would like these dancers to be compensated for their time and artistry. I would like to be compensated for my time and artistry. I'd like the economic freedom to be able to devote myself to the fullness of this process. And I would like to eventually present this as an evening long work in a suitable space with full tech. Keep your fingers crossed!

In the meantime, please take a moment to enjoy the rehearsal videos below! I was so blessed to work with these beautiful artists (many are former students of mine whom I have trained and watched blossom into their own artists over the years).There are clips from our rehearsals in June and July of 2022, as well as from the movement's inception while working with my high school students at Northfield Mount Hermon over the 2021-2022 school year (those students are not included in the videos). Just a glimpse of the process...

Let me know what thoughts come up for you. What do you see? What resonates with you? What do you question? Please, please write to me with your thoughts. Keep in mind that these are mini-clips of a fuller work that is much more fleshy, and continues to grow. Also, follow these phenomenal dancers, read Audre Lorde's Black Unicorn: Poems (book), listen to Woman (album by Jill Scott) and grae (album by Moses Sumney), drop by Motor City Dance Factory for an incredible community and dance experience, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) support Black woman artists wherever you are.

Out of 15 choreographers chosen for the showcase this year, I was the only Black woman in the line-up. Access to the resources (time, money, energy, performers, space, etc.) made it possible to be able to present work at this Detroit based event. I love to see more opportunities to experience dance in the city... also, Black folks make up about 77% of Detroit. I am aware that my own proximity to whiteness (my employment and residence at a private boarding school in western Massachusetts which has positioned me to be able to take more time for myself and my craft) is what afforded me the comfort to participate in this experience. For a population of storytellers that is routinely erased from the recollection of events in time, we could sincerely use your help and advocacy... if you bout it like that ;-)

Title of Work: Aeaea

Choreographer: Nicole Williams

Performers: Daji Carter, Lyrik Enoex (@iamlyrikemon), Jai Hatcher (@jaihatcher), Torri Johnson (@_torri__), Jenia Powe (@thewavehealing), Elliott Vargas (@ell._.iott)

Music: Winter Vivaldi, Pause (Interlude) Jill Scott, All Gone (No Escape) Gustavo Santaolalla, and so i came to isolation Moses Sumney, Sequelae Audre Lorde

Program Note: These are movements from a larger work that has yet to be fully composed. This work exists as a radical act of being; a re-membering of stories historically and systemically erased, unconsidered, and devalued.

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