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 Ricarrdo Valentine and Orlando Hunter Jr., founders of Brother(hood) Dance! and 2020 Gibney Presents artist.
Brother(hood) Dance! is an interdisciplinary duo that seeks to inform its audiences on socio-political and environmental injustices from a global perspective, bringing clarity to the same-gender-loving African-American experience in the 21st Century. Orlando Hunter Jr and Ricarrdo Valentine have been presented domestically and internationally at FiveMyles, B.A.A.D! (Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance), Danspace Project, New Waves! Dance & Performance Institute (Trinidad & Tobago), Viso Festival 2016 (Mexico), Universidad Veracruzana-EEE (Mexico), Jean Rene Delsolins Institute (Haiti) and more. Brother(hood) Dance! was formed in April 2014 as a duo that researches, creates and performs dances of resistance and liberation.
Ricarrdo Valentine (left) and Orlando Hunter Jr. Photo by: Ramy Mam
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yes, we are currently working on Ricarrdo’s senior plan project at Marlboro College, which will also be a new work for Brother(hood) Dance! There was supposed to be a gallery showing of his photographs and a live performance of La Abuela Negra en el Armario/The Black grandma in the Closet. However, the work had to be re-imagined in a photobook and dance film, for now. In addition, Brother(hood) Dance! was supposed to perform Afro/Solo/Man for Gibney’s Replay platform in June, and our residency at Bates Dance Festival was cancelled. As of now, we are in the process of re-envisioning and honing in on the details of Brother(hood) Dance! now that Ricarrdo will be an undergrad in May.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
Ricarrdo: Dance has always been with me since I was a young boy gathering my mother and grandmother into the living room for one of my performances. With such enthusiasm for dance, I entered Eliot Feld/Ballet Tech in the 3rd grade, riding the yellow school bus back and forth from Crown Heights to 890 Broadway. This foundation in institutional learning led me to dance with Dancewave Kids Company, Alfred Gallman, Christal Brown, Edisa Weeks, Germaul Barnes, André Zachary, Ni’Ja Whitson and other fly Black artists in the dance field. In April 2014, Orlando and I co-created Brother(hood) Dance!. We’ve been exploring dance, photography, and community building ever since. Now that I will be graduating from undergrad in May, I will be honing in on my photography practice and have developed more photo books and photo series.
Orlando: I remember being taught how to dance in my living room by babysitters, seeing photographs of my parents as (Chicago) steppers, dancing at family reunions, doing dance performances with the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club, dancing with Unlimited & Next Level Drill and Dance team in Fairview Park, and having my own dance group called Sota Souljaz from middle school through my sophomore year of high school. These were all experiences where family and friends encouraged me to follow what I loved to do. In the western sense of studio training, my junior and senior year of high school, I attended Perpich Center of Arts Education and furthered my dance education at the University of Minnesota, where the integration of spirit, dance and social engagement was lit by my guru and one of my dance mothers, Ananya Chatterjea. Today, I am proud to have Brother(hood) Dance! as a reflection of how the people who were a part of those foundational experiences can witness their community investments within my work.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
We are practicing embodying great depths of self-love to facilitate spaces where others may find the same. We are envisioning an integrated space of dance, photography, and agriculture where Black artists and artists of color can develop their creative ideas, as well as have a hands-on-the-land experience so that they can produce grounded and conscious art making.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
As artists centering Blackness in all we do, our practice allows us to rest, heal, listen, and create a future that lets the next generation be free through arts and agriculture. We care a lot about creating a comfortable space for authentic living and human transformations. Our care is to make sure marginalized folks do not go invisible and forgotten.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
We created a piece in 2016 called how to survive a plague, and here it is 2020, and it serves as a blueprint of sorts for care-giving with check-ins, healing with herbs, aromatherapy, music, touch, deep and meaningful conversations, and dealing with the hard stuff. These are practices we have embedded within our artistic life to ensure thriving and surviving in an ever-evolving time.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo by Caroline Yang.