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Aimee Meredith Cox Reflects on Classically Black

By 651 ARTS on January 25, 2016

The 651 ARTS 2015-16 season is Classically Black. In dynamic motion and constantly transforming, Black and Blackness are not easily defined. And yet, Blackness is firmly rooted in a history that celebrates innovation and creative self-making. This ability to deftly morph while staying grounded allows Blackness to transcend tired representations, compelling us to be brave enough to challenge what it means to deem something or someone classic, or assume we are witnessing a performance that we should categorize as classical. ‘Black’ and ‘classic’ dance together in an unpredictable two-step, each redefining, repositioning, and reclaiming the other both as theoretical concepts and lived realities. What makes us Black or the art we create classical? What makes us classical or the art we create Black?

Whether walking along neighborhood streets against the mundane routines of daily life, flowing through extremes of choreographed virtuosity on stage, animating a sequence of words across a page, finding joy in the way fabric can be manipulated to caress the shape of the body, or getting life from an amplified voice’s ability to confront the status quo, the black body in motion is ultimate improvisation. The black body in motion is exquisite disruption. Blackness is the ease and beauty of fully embodying oneself. Blackness is the fearless will to both take up space and transform it. Blackness is protest against all that seeks its erasure. And this ease, this beauty, this fearlessness, and this protest are all quintessentially classical.

The artists who join us for our 2015-16 season ask us to interrogate our definitions and presumptions of Blackness and Classical. And, from their artistic prompting, we may be moved to experience classical beyond an ideal of pure forms or unwavering traditions. Classically Black is never stagnant nor does it pander to aesthetic mandates and rules around method, structure, or form that have historically excluded perspectives that emerged from the African diaspora. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, for example, is immersed in a classically Black dance tradition that educates and inspires. DCDC’s movement narratives reference collective memories to dislocate them, replant them, and ultimately grow something new.

Classically Black may raise more questions than it answers. We hope this to be the case. This thing, this essence, this way of being in the world, this collection of experiences and visual cues we gather and call Blackness is more than the sum of all of these parts. Blackness, in a very classical sense, is feed by our courage to experiment and seriously play with the possibilities.

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