Movement of Joy

Naila H. Ansari. Photo by Brandon Watson

Year: 2024-2025
DanceForce Member: Jenise Akilah Anthony
Artist: Naila H. Ansari
Community Partners: SUNY Brockport Department of Dance; SUNY Brockport’s EDI Office: Garth Fagan Dance; Monroe and Erie County Community Volunteers
Audience: 1,000
County: Monroe

The Western New York Community has been a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities. We have been privileged to house many renowned artists, voices and activists that have placed us at the forefront of Black American History. We have heard their stories, followed their lineage and paid homage to their legacies in many ways. However, the voices of our black women, the pillars upon whom many of us stand today, have been quieted. Not only are their stories unheard but aren’t featured as widely as they should be. This partnership with Naila Ansari’s Movement of Joy and Brockport Dance Department offers an immersive and safe space to offload these rich experiences in the lives of our regional black women.

This project aims to highlight the contributions and impact of Black dance movements, both culturally and politically, led by everyday Black women in America. From plantation dances like the “ring shout” to “house” dance and beyond, this collaboration with trained dancers and the Monroe County community will look at the dances that brought black joy during some of the most tumultuous times in America. The focus will be on the circle or the “cypher” and the sacred space it has held for Black joy and movement throughout history. Through a community-based framework, we will investigate how the movement has been the center of creating community and teaching us all how to discover joy amidst divisive times and struggles. There will be workshops, filmed interviews in the community, and a dance piece that culminates all the work in totality.

The project contains three phases that would serve an estimated audience of 1000:

Part 1: Includes recorded and edited interviews with black women aged 30-80. The volunteer interviewees, from Brockport campus and surrounding environs will respond to questions prompted by Naila in September 2024.

Part 2: In October 2024, the guest artist will be in residence for 4 weeks for an intensive choreographic process and rehearsal in preparation for a performance in Brockport’s DANSCORE concert.

Part 3: Guest Artist Naila Ansari would host a lecture and workshop, open to the community one week before the official premiere of her choreography in the DANSCORE concert. The show runs from November 21-23, with lectures/workshops providing context for the featured performances.

Classical musician Greg Woodsbie and African Drumming specialist Mohamed Diaby will provide the live sound score for this piece. Both are on faculty at SUNY Brockport and are thrilled to be a part of the process. Other interdisciplinary artists like poets, singers, painters, dramatists and spoken word artists may be included in this work.

In Spring of 2024, Naila would visit SUNY Brockport’s Dance Department for an introductory weekend of master classes/workshops/artist talks, and a preliminary audition to begin laying the foundation for her work in the fall. Advanced community dancers and groups in Rochester and Buffalo are welcome to audition but must commit to the choreography, rehearsal and performance schedule. Given the length of the residency we hope many will take part.