ARTISTS REACH OUT: REFLECTIONS IN A TIME OF ISOLATION
Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.
“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director
This interview features Maria Bauman-Morales, multi-disciplinary artist, 2019 Gibney Dance in Process (DiP) Resident artist, and 2017 Gibney Community Action Artst in Residence.
Maria Bauman-Morales is a “Bessie” award winning multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is 2020 Columbia College Dance Center Practitioner-in-Residence, 2019 Gibney Dance in Process residency award winner, 2018-20 UBW Choreographic Center Fellow, 2017-19 Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and was the 2017 Community Action Artist in Residence at Gibney. In 2009 she founded MBDance which recently premiered (re)Source to sold-out audiences, co-commissioned by the Chocolate Factory Theater and BAAD!. She creates bold and intimate artworks for MBDance, via dream-mapping and nuanced, powerful physicality. Centering non-linear stories, bodies and musings of queer people of color, she draws on her studies of English literature, capoeira, improvisation, dancing in nightclubs and concert dance classes to emphasize ancestors, imagination, and Spirit while embodying inter- dependence.
Bauman-Morales is also a performance collaborator with Jumatatu Poe’s and Donte Beecham’s Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation. Previously, she danced with Urban Bush Women (UBW) and was UBW’s Director of Education and Community Engagement before becoming Associate Artistic Director. She still works with Urban Bush Women as part of the UBW Summer Leadership Institute advisory council and faculty member for the Summer Leadership Institute.
She is an active member of our dance community outside of choreography and performance. Bauman-Morales is a Core Trainer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, helping arts organizations and university dance programs understand and undo racism. In 2014, she co-founded a grassroots organization, Artists Co-creating Real Equity, which won the 2018 BAX Arts and Artists in Progress Award for working to undo racism in our daily lives. Organizing to undo racism informs her artistic work and the two areas are each ropes in a Double-dutch that is her holistic practice. She is also a mentor through Queer Art Mentorship initiative.
Maria Bauman-Morales in (re)Source, photo by Brian Rogers.
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
My reading, dancing and dialogic research persists with the MBDancers—from living room to living room. I’m investigating a new, site-responsive and non-proscenium celebration of QTPOC (Queer and/or Trans People of Color) survival technologies. This performative practice and celebration is called Desire: A Sankofa Dream, and I’m thrilled that Courtney Cook, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Audrey Hailes and Angie Pittman are part of Desire with me.
I’ve been in residence at Columbia College Dance Center to investigate the new work and, as part of that, I’ve loved teaching a course I designed entitled Queer Makers of Color, as well as a repertory course to research the movement vocabulary. Of course, all teaching has gone remote. I’m mourning the loss of those in-person inquiries. However, at this point we are still on for our 2021 premiere.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I’m all about making our way—dancing, singing, drawing for our healing—and being resourceful as a creative practice. So, these days I’m making non-proscenium art where the people and the environment are primary.
I started by dancing and singing for my mother and other family members. One of my best memories is dancing with my mom by standing on top of her feet while she cavorted through our house when I was small. Eventually, I moved to Capoeira, U.S. Black vernacular dances, Western modern and postmodern dance techniques and the like. Nightclubs and living rooms have remained great performance venues for me in addition to my stage experience.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
Envisioning the world I want to live in and trying to live it now—accepting with alternating grace and defiance what is actually happening instead of numbing out; practicing being with the Earth, my body, my wife, the dancers in my company in place of ownership relationships I’ve been socialized into; appreciating simplicity. Holding myself and my families well—eating well, exercising, checking and talking with the little ones and the elders in my community. Without my commute time and so many other facets of “regular” life that have died, I’m honing in on generativity and recuperation as a more consistent cycle. There are things I want to make, do and think about so I am. But I’m also feeling into quieter evenings and longer meals.
Desire: A Sankofa Dream in-progress showing. Shown: Kirya Traber, Nana Chinara, Ziiomi Law and Cat Archer, photo by Beto O’Byrne.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
Imagining and feeling into ways of relating other than ownership and power-over are important to my life and to this new work Desire: A Sankofa Dream. QTPOC (Queer and or Trans People of Color) have been inundated with explicit and subtle messaging that says we are property, to be managed and fixed.
The artists I work with and I are breathing into different imaginations of ourselves through improvisation, fantasy and desire. Practicing autonomy and agency mean recognizing autonomy and agency in others—other people, terrains and approaches. I am practicing that, imperfectly, but practicing nonetheless.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
It is humbling and simple. Meditating, dancing, caring for and imagining are all part of my and our new/renewed ways of being. One of the simplest and most complex ways I’m inviting the practice of being-with rather than ownership or being owned is to feel instead of to numb. While I’m mortified by this pandemic, I’m grateful for the call to feel and to envision.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo by Lola Flash.