Why was it important to perform at the actual burial site rather than another location or stage?
The Brother General Gabriel performance was a site-specific performance at the burial ground. In my opinion, the essence of the performance and how it resonates with the dancers and the audience would have been completely different if it were to be performed on a stage. Choosing to perform on the burial ground allowed the opportunity to bring awareness about historical/modern injustices, community building, and it adds a spiritual and more genuine commemoration element.
The burial ground has markings but they are not obvious markings that notify people about the land. It is also right next to ongoing traffic and buildings that attract even more people to the location. The area is loud and chaotic which is not an ideal place for a burial ground. If the burial ground were for white people, it most likely would have tombstones and other markings. The city would go through more length to make sure the burial ground is peaceful and respected. Richmond neglected the burial ground and not a lot of people know it exists until someone educates them about it. Even residents of Richmond who lived there for the majority of their lives did not know about the site. Therefore, the site-specific performance allowed people to become aware of the space and hopefully try to learn more about it and start conversations. If the performance was on a stage, people would have not gotten the same message or feeling. The audience probably would have been a little bit confused and they probably would not have taken further steps to educate themselves about the land. Performing at the burial ground allowed people to physically see the land they pass by carelessly every day. It also appealed more than just sight and captured the attention of other senses: smell, touch and sound. The activation of the audience’s senses improves their mindfulness of the present and can improve their memory for the future. They can recall how they felt in the moment because more than one sense was working. The site-specific element made the performance more personal and forced people to be on the land that was neglected.
When people watch performers on a stage, they just sit in their seats, stay to themselves and just focus on the show then leave. However, for the Brother General Gabriel performance brought dancers with different skill levels and the community together at the same location and at the same time to experience a powerful gift. The audience had to interact and move with others in order to see the show and to be involved in it. It is a different feeling to be standing and walking around to watch performers rather than just sitting and turning the head to shift focus. Having to stand and move side by side with many neighbors creates different energies that unites people and forms connectivity between them. Also, since the performance was site-specific, people were able to join the performers with ease. People got the opportunity to actually walk on the burial ground and get to feel energies of old ancestors whose lives were horrifically lost. This was an emotional event. Additionally, the performers physically touched different aspects of the land. The bricks of the walls under the bridge had human contact, the trees, the grass, the steps, the ledge and even the air. Physically touching the land allowed for a better chance of feeling spiritually connected to the theme and ancestors. The site-specific performance also highlighted how the land does not get the peace and respect that it needs. During the performance, cars and people were passing by and noise was present. The dancers performing through the distractions showed strength and determination to give the land the awareness and attention that it deserves from the city and its people.
Furthermore, the ending of the performance was very impactful for everyone involved because everyone was joined together with singing and moving through the space. It would have been harder to achieve audience participation if they were seated in an audience and there was limited space to move due to seats, a stage and four walls.
The product of uncovering historical injustices present in modern day society and involving the aspect of community building during a performance creates a genuinely spiritual and commemorative event. If the performance happened in a different location then the land would not have gotten the true commemoration that it deserves.
How does the museum visit and the performance process / performance day differ from each other?
The exhibit “Determined” and the Brother General Gabriel performance both presented topics of discussion about racial injustices but they were presented in different ways.
The majority of the exhibit presented textbook-like information which did not make it personal. It discussed facts and dates from the start of slavery but then it skipped many years, as if nothing bad happened during the time periond, until it reached the present; this adds to the superificial and incensire quality of it. The exhibit missed a personal aspect of their history telling. Adding connections from history to today, such as how the events from history are still affecting people today, is necessary and it was lacking.
additionally, the walls even go from red, to orange, to brown, to green, and then to purple. It made it seem like society was bad during the time of slavery but since slavery “ended” and we had a black president then everything is better now. The colors symbolized pain and darkness and transitioned to a good and hopeful tone. The group discussed that the exhibit tried to cover up the reality and try to divert people’s attention to the successes of black people in America but do not highlight that the problems still exist. Injustices from history still exist today but they evolved which is why people think things have gotten better but in reality it has not.
Contrastingly, the performance presented information in a much more personal way. It also included fact information with signs and with the use of headphones that presented information to audience members. The museum presented more information and gave people the chance to read and receive at their own pace but the audience members during the performance could only hear the information once and had to move on. The personal element plays a bigger role than just stating facts. When people feel personally connected to something, they are more likely to do more research and take action to fight for whatever cause. The site-specific performance presented a neglected area that currently shows a lack of justice for black people while the “Determined” exhibit presents information about the present as if all of the problems became nonexistent.
What aspects of community building talked about in class present themselves during the performance creating process?
In MK’s class, a set of class etiquette rules and agreements were established which included: trust (trust, practice, build), respect (where can respect appear and how: spatial awareness. Aware of feelings, allow agency) kind confrontation (it’s okay to disagree), encounter the growing edge, everyone has value, collective accountability, move forward in 2s and move back in 3s. During the performance creating process I think that trust, collective accountability and move forward in 2s and move back in 3s presented themselves.
When I am involved in a performance, I am used to having structure and having a general sense of the process and the final product. For the Brother General Gabriel Performance process, I found that MK worked in a process-based way. Every day was a new experience and she was constantly changing ideas and concepts in order to come up with the end product. The process made it feel like there was no clear idea of the end product and everything was pieced together last minute. However, it was easy for me to think things like that because I was not the one who was in-charge of the creative process which was a lot to do. Unfortunately, I lost faith in the project along the way because I found the uncertainty in things to be discouraging. I had to remind myself that I made a commitment to the class and the performance and had to trust that everything will work out at the end and trust in my own abilities to set those changes into my body. I had to sit back and go through the process one day at a time and just go with the motions.
Collective accountability came into play because everyone had to come to class meetings and rehearsals in order to show commitment and to keep the intentions alive. It is important as performers to respect rehearsal times and to be completely present. If everyone stays mindful of their roles and contributes 100% of their energy than the project is able to progress over time. For the performers, the accountability aspect can simply appear when we reminded each other to go over certain sections of the choreography to practice. Everyone played their roles in the project which allowed for a great performance.
Moving forward in 2s and moving backwards in 3s related to the creative process because the project was constantly changing and the performers always had to adapt to changes and different expectations of how something is going to happen. One day the dancers would learn a set of choreography but then the next day it would be completely scratched. Ideas and inspirations were always forming and the dancers always had to work with that process. It did not seem like we accomplished a lot during each individual meeting but overall we ended up learning a whole performance. It reminded me that not everything can happen in a day but some things need months or even years to prosper.