Papers: Rainy Demerson, Bonnie Cox & Melissa Melpignano | Moderator: Ilana Morgan

(Re)mapping Space, Time, and Energy: Re-membering Black Women in South African Contemporary Dance

Rainy Demerson, Ph.D. candidate
University of California, Riverside, USA

Abstract: African contemporary dance genre is created by those who cross borders of tradition, race, gender, and nation, to express a post-colonial identity. This conceptual and material border crossing, reconstructs notions of time, space, and energy according to Indigenous worldviews. Sourcing fieldwork in South Africa, I draw from Indigenous and Africana Studies scholarship to highlight the ways that contemporary choreography in South Africa utilizes indigenous worldviews and processes in the historically Western setting of the proscenium stage. I analyze choreography by Dada Masilo and Mamela Nyamza, which I argue re-members African women whose bodies and psyches have been dismantled by colonialism, apartheid, and on-going patriarchy. Re-membering is a process of becoming intimate and creative with one’s physical body as a member of a displaced culture. In South Africa, this is also process of recalling past events to understand ancestral presence and historic politics as they continue to live in the present. My research suggests that dance-makers in South Africa re-member Indigenous women by (re)mapping space, time, and energy, using techniques such as ancestorism, autobiographical storytelling, will, and signifyin(g).

Rainy Demerson is a Ph.D. student in Critical Dance Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Demerson holds an MFA in Dance from Hollins University, an MA in Dance Education from New York University, and a BA in World Arts and Cultures/Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has trained internationally at L’ecole des Sables in Senegal, Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Escola de Dança da FUNCEB in Brazil, and in Belize, Indonesia and Germany. She produced choreography in New York and Senegal and presented it in festivals nationally. Demerson taught Dance and Yoga to youth throughout New York City for seven years. She taught at Lindenwood University, El Paso Community College, Crafton Hills College, and Scripps College. She is now teaching Dance and World Cultures at Cal Poly Pomona University. Demerson has articles published in the Journal of Dance Education and the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship. www.vimeo.com/rainydemerson


A Critical Race Feminist Analysis of Dar a Luz and Censura: A Danced Re-articulation of Bordered Mexicanidad

Bonnie Cox

This presentation will introduce video clips and a critical race analysis of Dar A Luz and Censura, two dance pieces choreographed and danced by the presenter, Bonnie Cox. These pieces consider the power and danger present at the intersections of race, gender and nation in Latinx bodies in relation to the U.S./Mexico Border. The audience sits in the round, serving as a border encircling the dancer that is policed by a surveilling figure that monitors the dancers inside. Within the liminal border space the dancers draw attention to the ceaseless violence that women undergo that is exacerbated by the border, and reclaim their bodies as they re-articulate their relationship to colonial power. Through an analysis that deploys Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectionality, Arturo Aldama’s discourse on savagism, Gloria Anzaldua’s concept of Nepantla, Latin Critical Race Feminist discourse, and performance studies, Cox discusses how dance is well equipped to call attention to and resist institutionally racist and misogynistic systems, particularly regarding the othering of Mexicans and women in bordered spaces as portrayed in Dar a Luz and Censura.

Bonnie Cox received her MFA in Dance from The University of Colorado Boulder in Spring 2018. She is currently an artist-in-residence with Lux Boreal Compañía de Danza in Tijuana, Mexico where she is creating a bi-nationally generated dance piece that will be performed on the U.S./Mexico border. Bonnie combines dance, performance studies, women and gender studies, and ethnic studies to explore identity and other social phenomena in performance. Her scholarly work has been published in the Chiricú Journal of Latina/o Literatures, Arts and Cultures. Bonnie received her BFA in dance from Texas State University in 2011. Before attending graduate school Bonnie lived in Austin, Texas where she performed with various dance companies and taught ballet, modern and contemporary dance. Her 2013 production, Silence to Power: Dance as a Response to Trauma, was nominated from an Austin Critics Table Award.


Israel’s Corporeal Power and Palestinian Choreographies of Resistance

Melissa Melpignano

Abstract: This paper seeks to conceptualize different ideas of corporeality produced by the Israel/Palestine border. Israel and Palestine are divided by borders which are simultaneously assumed, claimed, contested, and marked by physical and non-physical fencing systems. How does a frontier move when disputed? How are the bodies affected and reacting? I claim that in the context of Palestine and Israel, borders are under an ongoing process of corporealization, decorporealization, and recorporealization.

More specifically, I argue that Israel’s sovereignty on the West Bank manifests through different fencing strategies (such as checkpoints, roadblocks, and also political negotiations) aimed at crafting specific Palestinian corporealities that vary from a territorial standpoint, according to the (bio)political role that specific communities play within the Occupied Territories. First, I offer a choreographic analysis of the ways in which the Israeli authorities intervene on the mobility of Palestinian bodies. Then, I analyze the choreographic tactics that Palestinian individuals and organized groups from different areas of the West Bank enact in order to resist the fencing/bordering dispositifs, and perform their corporeal agency. Finally, I assess how the Palestinian reformulation and reappropriation of their corporeality compete with the Israeli authorities’ strategies of corporeal hegemony.

Lastly, with this specific case study, I seek to contribute to an expansion of choreography both as a theoretical framework and method (Foster 2003, O’Shea 2007, Giersdorf 2013) applied to the study of borders in their strategic, violent, and resistive outputs. By prioritizing the corporeal forces at play in the (bio)political construction of frontiers, I intend to show how moving bodies can actively challenge, reorient, and even undermine strategies of dominion and segregation.

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Rubin Center
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