For Toni, Audre, & Alice: An Exploration of Black Women’s Sexuality and Spirituality in A Shared Space
by Alexandria Chidera Onuoha
Last semester of my undergraduate career, my mother and I were reminiscing about Carnival in Jamaica and how we miss the West Indies. We talked about the beauty of Caribbean dance and how it allows women to feel liberated about their bodies. She told me that when she was younger, she would dance in competitions; and it was the best experience because she was in tune with her body. As I started telling her about my interests in the duality of sexuality and spirituality, we zoomed in on the hypersexualization of Soca and Dancehall, which is something we both find irritating. Soca is a genre of music that was created by Trinidadian artists and is used heavily in Carnival settings in the Caribbean. Dancehall is a genre of music that came out of Jamaica and is by far the most popular music in Jamaica according to my mother. These two genres of music have fast-paced rhythms for the most part and utilize percussion and synthesizers in the production of the music. The dance forms that follow these genres of music are “whining” and other pelvic rotating movements. Although these dance and music genres have explicit lyrics, the entirety of the genres are not solely about the act of sex but about the feeling of confidence and creating community because one feels liberated in their body. My mother and I concluded that you can move your hips and whine your waist without inviting sex. This conclusion also sparked a critical analysis of my identity as a Jamaican and Nigerian woman who loves Afro-Caribbean dance while also being heavily involved with church and my experience with Liturgical dance. The two dance genres contrast starkly; one allows you to express your full range of movement while the other limits it based on the culture of the church. For a time, I was caught in the middle of this conflict, but I knew that being sexually liberated and confident as well as spiritual and reverent can happen simultaneously. The duality is important for liberation.
The writings of Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker perfectly aligned with my purpose to find synergy among sexuality and spirituality; and they inspired me to examine the possibilities of embodied movement and conversation about sexuality and spirituality in relation to the dance forms of Liturgical dance and Afro-Caribbean dance being present in one space together. By reviewing academic literature on the historical significance of the Black female body in multiple spaces, the function of gospel music, African cosmology, and womanist writers and developing intersectional choreography, I created a dance called For Toni, Audre, & Alice. This was created with the goal of representing the possibility of an embodied experience of Black women as sexual and spiritual beings on a proscenium stage. Analyzing performance works from choreographer Ronald K. Brown coupled with theoretical texts and novels from womanist writers Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker, I composed a fifteen-minute dance work. This piece consisted of fourteen dancers including myself and a cellist. The piece fused Liturgical dance and Afro-Caribbean dance to demonstrate that sexuality and spirituality can and must exist in the same space in order to provide the body and dance experience a place for wholesomeness. Wholesomeness allows Black individuals in particular to express the full range of emotions that we as humans have. There is a pernicious narrative about Black women that denotes us as being angry and sexually perverted. This is harmful and disrupts wholesomeness. Black women’s bodies carry trauma because we are still very much haunted by slavery. Leaning into our wholesomeness provides liberation. In order to be living breathing humans, we must experience and embrace both sexuality and spirituality.
I still reflect upon the moments when I would have been on stage in my red ensemble that shows off my powerful legs performing For Toni, Audre, and Alice. The piece is a form of activism for Black women’s bodies. Work produced by Black women dance artists has been a place of healing for Black women through centering our experiences. Spaces such as Urban Bush Women gathers communities, activists, and organizers through performance and community engagement. The ensemble redefines dance and dance making by calling attention to the inequities that are present today in our society that negatively impact those at the margins—especially Black women.
I was in the middle of finalizing the details of my choreographic exploration of Afro-Caribbean dance and Liturgical dance when other students and I received an email March 13th, 2020 that we had to gather our belongings and head home because COVID-19 was quickly spreading. I was hurt, angry, but optimistic that in some way this work will be shared.
Although COVID-19 closed the opportunity for my dance to be seen and discussed, it provided a new revelation. When I got home, we began to shift into a cultural movement that emphasized the Black Lives Matter Movement and highlighted Black lives in every sense. The Black Lives Matter was birthed in 2013 by Black women who put their bodies at risk in efforts to start the movement for the erasure of white supremacy. The movement was a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. This movement has always been present, but in 2020 the murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd made every state claim that Black Lives Matter.
This movement called attention to the ways in which society has systematically disvalued Black individuals in every space including dance and academia. The history of Black women’s sexuality makes its way to the importance of liberating bodies. In this context, this cultural movement allows all of us to analyze the role slavery has had on the Black female body and the expectations and stereotypes. I chose to explore these many ideas through literature and reflecting on Afro-Caribbean dance and Liturgical dance. Specifically, I choose the book Beloved by Toni Morrison to use in my composition process because in this novel the main character Sethe endures many events that violate her Black female body during slavery. By pairing Black Feminist Thought with the history of Afro-Caribbean dance to create movement that includes the synergy of sexuality and spirituality, I developed a stronger connection to my own roots.
When I use the terms spiritual and spirituality, I am using them to discuss Liturgical dance. Liturgical dance is a form of praise and worship to God that is embodied in religious settings where the focus is on the words of lyrics and the spiritual connection with God. In order to explore sexuality in the choreographic piece, I use Afro-Caribbean dance where this dance genre has movements that emphasize the hips and fluid motions throughout the waist that some deemed as sexual and performative. In this exploration, when discussing Black churches and Black spirituality, I will be referring to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Baptist Church, and The Pentecostal Church.
African Cosmology, Interconnectedness, & Spiritual Expression
The term cosmology refers to a group’s worldview and a general consensus of beliefs and practices based on history and culture. Due to colonization, much of what African cosmology has been defined to be, stems from the outsider (Viriri and Mungwini 30). However, African cosmology explains the relationship African individuals have with the universe as informed by religious beliefs and rituals. Africa’s cosmologies are diverse but there are shared beliefs that spread across the continent (Nyang 8). While it is problematic to talk about Africa as a whole, many African countries view sexuality and spirituality differently from the way Western cultures do. Many African cultures do not adhere to the Western separation and divide of sexuality and spirituality because they recognize sexuality and spirituality as one unifying human experience. In fact, West African-based spiritual traditions emphasize the sexual expression of humans as a vital part of a spiritual experience (Soley 2). Scholars of African cosmology believe in the unity and the interconnectedness of sexuality and spirituality. Carl Paris, an African American choreographer and dance scholar, discusses his relationship with the term “spirit”. Growing up in a Black Pentecostal church influences the way he moves as a dancer (Paris 99). His understanding of religion/spirituality allows him to read spirit in the dance works of Ronald K. Brown (Paris 99). Ronald K. Brown is a Black dancer and choreographer who founded the dance company Evidence. Brown incorporates modern and West African dance forms to create his works. Interestingly, “the feeling of the spirit” that is highlighted by Paris brings forth questions about the body and the spirit and what they mean. Paris identifies the unifying ideas of African embodiment and religiosity as an artistic intention and spiritual expression. He writes, “to put it another way, I claim a space for the Africanist concert dancer to strive for the transformational power of the religious and culturally based spirit; and also, for the spectator to experience it” (Paris 102). Paris explains that the spirit has a variety of meanings such as God, a divinity, and generative life force (Paris 100). Furthermore, Africanist theorists highlight the importance of expressive dancing on the Black body and the relationship the Black dancing body has with music and orality. Specifically, the spirit cultivates liberated energies such as “shouting” and expressive movement (Paris 103). The meaning of spirit is ubiquitous to a variety of people and we should make room for that. Dance can utilize spirituality as a way to experience the full range of motion in the body in order to feel liberated. Paris’s revelation of the layers of spirit in Ronald K. Brown’s work supports my exploration of duality. The phrase “feeling spirit” allows me to conceptualize the process of liberation that we can use in our understanding of sexuality in the dance space— “feeling”. “Spirit” allows me to make room for sacredness and honoring the body in the dance space.
A Womanist Perspective: The Writings of Toni, Audre, & Alice
Ideologies in African cosmology related to sexuality and spirituality also manifest in the works of Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker. Womanism according to Walker in her 1983 piece In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose is defined by the recognition that all women are a part of the human race. Womanism also encourages one to believe in the wholeness and well-being of all humanity. This framework also emphasizes the responsibility to fight against sexism and racism and generate solidarity between Black men and women. Walker proposes the idea of wholeness and the inclusion of Black female sexuality as a part of who they are (Duncan 35). Again, sexuality is not separated, and womanist views allow a shared space that includes both spiritual and religious ideologies while keeping sexuality near.
Lorde in her biomythography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name explores her childhood and her adulthood while navigating life under West Indian immigrants. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name also depicts a battle Lorde faced when interacting with her authoritarian mother and owning her budding sexuality as a lesbian. Lorde often eroticizes certain events in her biomythography as it is vital towards Audre’s journey towards the true self (Jacobs 117). For instance:
I could feel bands of tension sweeping across my body back and forth, like lunar winds across the moon’s face. I felt the slight rubbing bulge of the cotton pad between my legs, and I smelled the delicate breadfruit smell rising up from the front of my print blouse that was my own womansmell, warm, shameful, but secretly utterly delicious (77).
Lorde describes her experience in her mother’s kitchen in a sensual fashion that embraces her sexual curiosity. The erotic that Lorde emphasizes throughout her life is energy that she sees through every aspect of her life. The smell of breadfruit rising up from her clothes that she beautifully describes hints a parallel between a spiritual power and an embodied experience. Lorde uses her Caribbean heritage hence the use of the food “breadfruit”, to highlight a womanist perspective that acknowledged her whole being. This “breadfruit” is her “own woman smell” that speaks to her belonging to a community of women who she identifies with that also acknowledge sexuality and spiritual power (Jacobs 117). Lorde is not only paying homage to her Caribbean heritage here, but she is detailing the erotic nature of specific cultural aspects. When I think about the production of dance and dance knowledge in my own life, I go back to my Caribbean ancestry as well. Our ancestors built our culture and are with us in spirit; our culture and people recognize the erotic; the connection is axiomatic.
Morrison in her novel Beloved uses African cultural references to explore the lives of Black enslaved women and the rituals that encouraged their resistance to oppression and bondage. Beloved is a fictionalized account of Margaret Garner’s story who was an enslaved woman who committed infanticide instead of having her child submit to slavery. In the novel, Beloved comes back to life and follows her mother Sethe through her journey as an enslaved woman enduring harm against her Black female body. The “haunting” of Beloved, the symbols, and the icons act as a motif in Beloved. For example, Morrison writes “This is your ma’am. This,’ and she pointed. ‘I am the only one got this mark now. The rest dead. If something happens to me and you can’t tell me by my face, you can know me by this mark” (Morrison 72). Through this symbolic mark, Morrison references African cultural rituals. Morrison uses spirituality to talk about the harm that is done to the Black female body. In talking about sexuality, we must also talk about harm. Morrison’s writings are useful in the production of dance because it allows artists to embody the harmful ideas and challenge them physically.
Beloved boldly outlines the intersections of spirituality and sexuality as the character Beloved is polyvalent in similar ways that the Haitian loa Erzulie (Soley 89). Erzulie is the goddess of love and sexuality who is not an impulse of desire but a principle that drives human sexuality. Beloved and Erzulie both engage in diverse models of Black women sexuality; they are both interacting with men and women, and they both come in as saviors to heal male and female relationships (Soley 89). Both address the sacred and the sexual in Morrison’s text. Essentially, Morrison explains to readers that true subjectivity or in other words individuality is dependent upon spirituality and sexual symbiosis (Soley 90). Again, the writers are not making distinctions but making connections between spirit and sexuality. They are both in this space.
The Black Female Body
Colonization and the historical hypersexualization of the Black female body have had a significant impact on the Black female body, which illustrates the formation of attitudes and perceptions and creates space for alternatives, such as my dance. Colonization has impacted Black female bodies by forming erroneous, harmful perceptions of the Black female body as savage or uncivilized, which allowed colonizers to exploit the Black body (Stuckey 39). The Black male body and its experiences have been widely discussed far more than the Black female body in literature. In the case of the Black female body, stereotypes and images of Black women have been tenacious (Stuckey 39).
In their writings about Black sexuality interconnection with Black feminist thought, Kelly Douglas argues that the story of a South African woman named Sarah Bartmann also known as “Hottenot Venus” is the best story for exploring the harmful stereotypes and images generated by colonization (Douglas 33). In 1810, Bartmann was shipped to London in order to be examined because of her distinct features. White English doctors transformed Bartmann into a circuslike attraction. Bartmann was exhibited at museums and universities so that Europeans could gaze upon one particular aspect of her physiognomy, her large buttocks (Douglas 34). Unfortunately, when Bartmann died at the age of twenty-five her degradation did not come to a stop. An autopsy was conducted on her and her genitalia was put for display and used for a medical article. In 1817, she was given to a zoologist named George Cuvier who compared her to an orangutan. Again, after her death, scientists were still conducting experiments on her body to prove their hypotheses about racial inferiority and sexual proclivities (George-Graves 56).
The history of Bartmann is imperative because it depicts where these stereotypes arise from and where the compromise of the Black female body began. The treatment of Bartmann exposes the way white culture degraded Black sexuality and how they were persistent in their pursuits to prove to the world that Black people, in this case Black women were biologically predisposed to being sexually perverse (Douglas 35-36). Douglas also hints at Christian influences on the attack of the Black female body and sexuality:
The depiction of Sarah Bartmann is representative of the manner where Black men and women were depicted by White culture. They were portrayed as lustful and passionate beings. That such a nature served as sufficient proof of Black people’s inferiority, and thus their need to be dominated by White people, no doubt reflects the influence of the Western Christian tradition, which condemned human sexuality as evil. To be sure, this tradition would influence White cultural disposition toward Black people. To suggest that Black people were oversexualized meant that they were governed by matters of the flesh. This alone, according to the dominant early Christian tradition, was enough to signal their inferiority and need to be dominated by those governed by reason, namely, White men (35).
The importance of Sarah Bartmann reveals white culture’s obsession with placing blame on Black women for perversion. Black women are at the margins because we fall into the intersections of sexism and racism as we are considered to be least of a priority within a white patriarchal society. Our bodies are haunted by slavery and it is shown through the sexualization of young Black girls and women. As a result, when Black women and girls enter into the dance space that is predominantly white, it may not be safe. The Black female body is political because it is seen as too sexual and taking up too much space.
The Black Female Body & Afro Movements
The dehumanizing impact of slavery has caused Black women to feel uncomfortable embracing our bodies in fear of judgment and proving stereotypes. Caribbean dance involves the whole body including the pelvis and the hip area. Caribbean dance allows individuals to find artistry and expression rather than the invitation of sex and eroticism to please others, that have been defined by a Western patriarchal, society (Carey 131). Black women harbor pain from the impact of slavery that influences our own sexual agency. Caribbean dance has West African influences and these influences encourage the Black female body to take full control. Afro-Caribbean spaces encourage women to express their true selves, which is the unity of the sexual and spiritual.
Going Towards the Proscenium
Afro Caribbean dance cultivates spaces where freedom, sultriness, and happiness are possible. As an artist, watching Ronald K. Brown’s Grace left me with those possibilities. This piece infuses the dance forms of modern, house, jazz, and West African in order to create a spiritually-charged work of art. The trajectory of the piece is captivating, and it is unpredictable due to various influences Brown is experimenting with. Grace begins with an angelic solo that moves through space in order to create a spiritual effect and to set the scene of what is to come. Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday is playing while the solo is executing fluid movements which presents the piece as a spiritual experience for audiences to witness. As the piece progresses, dancers wearing white and red costumes enter the space and the piece transitions into an upbeat energetic texture. The movements of the pelvis and expressive arm motions derived from West African dance and the house sounds of Roy Davis added depth to the work. Thomas DeFrantz a well-respected dance scholar and educator argues that Brown’s influences reveal an investigation of sexuality and its meandering limits and the loss and recovery of spirituality due to slavery (4:15-16). DeFrantz again clearly articulates the structural composition components that permit a dialogue about sexuality and spirituality:
In telling a story of the Black church, choreographer Brown evokes the memory of slavery which, ultimately, gave rise to the Black church. He positions the dance firmly within a modernist tradition born of the Middle Passage and the gross cultural ruptures that slavery enacted. The dance becomes Black dance, within the protective and permissive circle, not only in its outward kinetic features, but in its opaque narrative of church practice: in its final tableau of diasporic wandering as the dancers amble away from the audience singly, but as a group towards an offstage place of worship… and spontaneous-seeming bursts of dynamic physical energy (16).
Brown positions the dance to be a narrative about the highs of spirituality informed by West African dance that celebrate the physical body and the physical energy the body brings forth. Brown confronts spirituality and sexuality in this work, maybe not intentionally, but it is there.
Possibility of a Shared Space: Leaning Towards Intersectional Movement
Again, this inquiry celebrates the multidimensional elements of Black women through embracing sexuality and spirituality in an intersectional dance informed by the literature of Lorde, Morrison, and Walker. Intersectionality was coined by social justice scholar and educator Kimberlé Crenshaw in order to account for intersecting systems of oppression and identities that impact women of color (Crenshaw 1244). In this context, I use intersectionality to explicitly express the interconnectedness of sexuality and spirituality using two dance forms that impact one another. By excavating sexuality and spirituality through archives of Black female body perceptions, Black dance works, African cosmology, and womanist perspectives, I created an intersectional movement that takes agency of my wholeness. For Toni, Audre, & Alice is an intersectional movement material that incorporates West African dance, Caribbean dance, and Liturgical dance in order to bring together sexuality and spirituality as one shared language and space– themes present in the writings of Lorde, Walker, and Morrison, who explored the connections of spirituality and sexuality in their literary work to reclaim the wholesomeness of the Black female body.
For Toni, Audre, & Alice
The cultivation of For Toni, Audre, & Alice was influenced by personal narratives from my cast, our definitions of sexuality and spirituality, and our understanding of text from Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker. From these resources and discussions, we generated definitions of sexuality and spirituality. We specifically discussed liberation, connections, and creation. Sexuality for us in this world we were creating together was about being human and not having boundaries with our embodiment expression. Furthermore, we discovered that we wanted liberation to manifest its way in group relationships in the choreography and in individual dance sequences in the choreography. We gathered around to discuss what spirituality and sexuality is and what it feels like. We then arrived at a shared language and what that means for our dance.
After discovering a shared language through conversation, we started creating together. We divided the piece into eleven sections to fully explore the possible relationships between dancers and ideas. The movement material started with a short dance sequence using an Afrobeat instrumental called Anybody from Burna Boy who is a Nigerian artist. The Afrobeat sounds of Burna Boy’s Anybody pushes the dance into a spiritually-charged direction that allows the dancers to display their sexiness through expressive movements and transitions on and off stage. The repetition of vibrant rhythms in the sound influences the dancers to be exuberant in their gaze and in their movement. The horn in the beat speaks to the erotic texture of the sound similar to when one hears jazz. Horns allow subjectivity and the freedom to improvise which can be interpreted as a parallel to one being an individual that expresses the many parts of them.
The short sequence incorporated West African movements of the waist, legs, hips, and butt while using modern dance for a foundation and transitions in movements. The goal of this sequence was to develop an entire section that was vibrant and interactive. After creating this section, I came up with a motif that would start the piece, circulate around the piece, and end the piece. The motif was a simple fall back from a standing up position to cast members catching the person. The fall was a tool to transition from the different spaces and ideas we were intersecting. Another transition tool in order to help the flow of the section was utilizing the cellist, Ursula Rall. Rall played Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 in the beginning while I was doing the solo and played again in other sections to act as a symbol and a transition for spirituality.
As the piece begins, the texture of the movement is soft, and at times I look up to the sky in a praise and worship fashion. As the movements of my body are reaching towards the sky and my head is lifting up, I begin to descend into a fall where the women in my cast catch me. The women catch me and gracefully bring me up to standing and there is a domino effect where a few women get to fall and be caught. We then transition into contact with one another and create a circle that embraces our bodies as one. Next, dancers come out of circles into their own solo sequences.
The dancers developed these sequences using Toni Morrison’s words in the book Beloved. I opened the book, and each person got a quote from the text and interpreted it in their own way. I wasn’t asking the dancers to explore these ideas of sexuality or spirituality in this particular section; I was just interested in seeing movement. In the process of creating, I began to see the dancers repeat movements and then asked them to solidify a dance combination that speaks to them; that’s how the solos were created.
As they begin to do their solos, Audre Lorde’s essay Uses of Erotic is the sound score playing. Lorde is reading her essay and as Lorde speaks about the power of the erotic, the dancers split off into various locations of the space moving at individual paces with slow and steady fluid movements. A few of the women engage with Rall by dancing around her space and creating eye contact with her as she is sitting in this space. Rall is serving as a staple symbol that the women come back to later on in the space. After the solo sequences, the women start with an arm motif where they assemble into a line and extend one arm in a slow motion and carry it around behind their back as it shifts to the extension of the other arm once they have executed their sequence. Thereafter, the women begin with a group sequence that is subtle and pedestrian to allow Lorde words to narrate the section. As the subtle sequence finishes, the women embrace each other again by hugging and touching one another in a caring way and the formation results into a shape that resembles the letter T on a diagonal. As they are on the diagonal, one by one the women begin to crouch down slowly and raise up repeatedly in a sensual way as Lorde’s voice dissipates. The women are all back up standing to begin the next section.
The solos from Morrison’s Beloved paired with Lorde’s essay while Rall is playing a soft melody in the background was an intentional overlap. The interpretations of Beloved in literary criticism have suggested Morrison’s intent to acknowledge the dehumanizing impact of slavery on Black women’s bodies whereas the history of slavery has been often centered on Black men. Then we have Lorde reciting her Uses of Erotic essay as the dancers move around. During rehearsals going over this section, walking around, listening, and viewing, I deeply thought about Lorde possibly reclaiming Black women’s bodies because of the horror Black women have faced depicted in the narrative of Beloved.
The Intense Duet
The contrasting duet in the piece explored the possibility of a shared space between sexuality and spirituality using Liturgical dance and choreography that allow contact. Lauren Reed and Osceola Heard were the two dancers. I constructed their duet with a Liturgical tone initially by using a sound score from Alberto Iglesias called Tessa’s Death. This sound score starts slow and then builds. Both Lauren and Osceola have ballet experience and are familiar with Liturgical dance, and I infused the two areas to create one movement style for this particular section. However, as they experimented with lifts, turns, and moments of silence as prompted by me, they had questions about boundaries. Osceola was asking questions about whether or not he could get closer to Lauren and invade those negative spaces with the shapes she was creating. Lauren began to improvise and create narrative when she touched Osceola’s back in a slow manner and they began to dance in unison. In this moment, there was a tension between keeping the purity of the movement quality and the desire for passionate touch for both Lauren and Osceola,
This duet was important because it pushed back against the skepticism of allowing dances in some Seventh Day Adventist Churches. They simply want depictions of purity, and my duet was meant to show grace, but it never limited other aspects of humanness. In contrast, Lauren and Osceola wanted to become closer to one another and were not sure if they could invade one another’s space so they went for it and discovered that this duet is both spiritual in the sense of togetherness and fluidity in the moment. But the moments where they look at each other and the moment where Osceola catches Lauren in the air has suspense and gives the tone of desire for proximity.
A key point during the compositional process with Lauren and Osceola was the manipulation of sounds. I changed the sounds a few times to see if there were changes in their chemistry. I experimented with CeCe Winans’ Great Is Thy Faithfulness which is a hymn I grew up singing in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Lauren and Osceola recognized the distinct sound of gospel music and it changed their intention and chemistry. I observed them do the same exact sequence to this sound, and I noticed tensions between their desire to invade one another space and the respectfulness of distancing because of the sound. It is vital to note that the choreography was Liturgical based but there were moments of closeness and touch that would not be in official Liturgical settings. The movements and the music choice will dictate how dancers move and how the audience perceives the relationship they are viewing on stage.
The movements, symbols, music, and text seek to cultivate a world where both sexuality and spirituality can exist together in For Toni, Audre and Alice. Rall’s presence throughout the whole work is a symbol of spirituality living in an unapologetic and sensual world. For Toni, Audre, & Alice made space for both ideas of sexuality and spirituality to coexist. This exploration made me further dive into the novels of Morrison, Lorde, and Walker because they encourage Black women to find ways to move beyond the intersections of racism and sexism. Storytelling from womanist writers influenced me to create a story of my own through dance that promotes positive sexuality for Black women.
The movements that I have learned as a child through my mother coupled with formal training gives me access to various influences. Spirituality and sexuality when Black women dance are inevitable to exist at the same time. Black women who dance will always have an intriguing movement style because of the many influences: our history, our language, our food, our culture, and our passion for subjectivity.
This piece was the container for the two worlds to mix. It created an opportunity for women to have agency over their bodies and to stand in their wholeness as living beings. My dance has yet to be performed but this very piece of writing serves as a container as well.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, vol. 43, no. 6, 1991, pp. 1241-99. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1229039.
Carey, A ‘Keitha. “CaribFunk Technique: Afro-Caribbean Feminism, Caribbean Dance and Popular Culture.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 4, no. 6, 2011, pp. 126-47. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=73147098&site=ehost-live.
DeFrantz, Thomas. Forward. Embodying Liberation: The Black Body in American Dance by Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, edited by Allison D. Goeller, vol. 4, Hamburg: Lit, 2001, FORECAAST Series pp. 15-16.
Douglas, Kelly Brown. Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective. Orbis Books, 2018.
Duncan, Carol B. “From “Force-Ripe” to “Womanish/ist”: Black Girlhood and African Diasporan Feminist Consciousness.” Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion & Society, edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas, New York University Press, 2006, pp. 29-37.
Elgar, Edward. Cello Concerto in E minor: Op. 85. 1919. London: Novello & Co., 1921.
George-Graves, Nadine. Urban Bush Women: Twenty Years of African American Dance Theater, Community Engagement, and Working It Out. The University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.
Grace. International Association of Blacks in Dance 32nd Annual Conference. Performance by Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, 18 Jan. 2020, Merriam Theater at the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus, Philadelphia.
Iglesias, Alberto. “Tessa’s Death.” The Constant Gardener (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Higher Octave Music, 2005. Apple Music, https://music.apple.com/us/album/tessas-death/723689885?i=723689939.
Jacobs, Bethany. “Mothering Herself: Manifesto of the Erotic Mother in Audre Lorde’s ‘Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.” MELUS, vol. 40, no. 4, 2015, pp. 110-28. Oxford Academic, https://doi.org/10.1093/melus/mlv036.
Lorde, Audre. “Audre Lorde reads Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.”, uploaded by growbean, 1 June 2011, https://youtu.be/xFHwg6aNKy0.
Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. The Crossing Press, 2007, pp. 53-59.
Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography. The Crossing Press, 2011.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York, Knopf, 1987.
Nyang, Sulayman. “Essay Reflections on Traditional African Cosmology” New Directions, vol. 8, no. 1, Article 8, 1980. Digital Howard, http://dh.howard.edu/newdirections/vol8/iss1/8.
Ogulu, Damini Ebunoluwa. “Anybody.” African Giant, Atlantic/Bad Habit/Spaceship Records, 2019. Apple Music, https://music.apple.com/us/album/anybody/1471446047?i=1471446049.
Paris, Carl. “Reading ‘Spirit’ and the Dancing Body in the Choreography of Ronald K. Brown and Reggie Wilson.” Black Performance Theory, edited by Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez, Duke University Press, 2014, pp. 99-114.
Stuckey, P. Sterling. “African American Dance: A Complex History.” Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance, edited by Thomas F. DeFrantz, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002, pp. 39-58.
Viriri, Advice, and Pascah Mungwini. “African Cosmology and the Duality of Western Hegemony: The Search for an African Identity.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 3, no. 6, 2010, pp. 27-42. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=51642018&site=eds-live.
Weir-Soley, Donna Aza. Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women’s Writings. University Press of Florida, 2009.
Winans, CeCe. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Alone in His Presence, Sparrow Records, 1995. Apple Music, https://music.apple.com/us/album/great-is-thy-faithfulness/723626694?i=723627042.
Alexandria Chidera Onuoha is a 2020 graduate of Bates College. She studied Dance and Psychology as a double major during her time at Bates, and now she is an applied developmental psychology Ph.D. student at Suffolk University in Boston working in the Youth Equity & Sexuality Lab. Her primary research focuses on the messages of fascist groups and their impact on the psychological development of Black girls and women. Alexandria is also an Afro-Caribbean and Modern dance artist who uses her art to promote the positive development of Black girls and women and promote social justice efforts. She is the founder of ACO STYLES, an organization and business that provides creative art events, services, and programming for and to young girls of color.