Author: Kayla Connelly

Learning with little words

My initial question: How does Camille deal with the difference between the cultures of the dancers and the cultures they’re representing, if they’re allowed to make decisions and grapple with the movement?

Camille A. Brown’s work is absolutely magnificent. Her various forms of expression makes for an interesting, compelling performance. I would characterize this work as a play tampering with the difficult. I can only imagine the amount of stumbling blocks and restrictions she possibly faced.

For one, Camille uses film, dance choreography, body language, verbal speech, and stepping in her piece. Using these elements calls for a vigilant audience, but behind the scenes, as she mentioned, it takes lots of time and preparation.

I particularly enjoy the social dancing that Brown works with and how it transforms to stage so beautifully. Her commitment to showcasing dances and movements of all time periods and styles, is fully present in her work. She takes you through a tour, more or less, and let’s you enjoy and celebrate them as well.

I’m not familiar with many dance companies, but in comparison to previous dances that I’ve seen, Camille’s style is very different. But, I admire that it is different and it causes the audience to appreciate her work in a different way. The constant rhythm changes, the tapping of the feet mixed with clapping, the bodily gestures, and the choice of words, all tie into this one grand performance. Leaving Camille’s piece meant leaving with knowledge. She incorporates a lot of educational material in her dancing, and does it so subtly that you don’t even notice you’ve just absorbed so much new information.

I can definitely see a connection between Brown’s work and what Free and MK are doing for our upcoming performance. Learning through dance is so powerful and necessary and can hit the target on many takeaways that words just cannot. The history and culture of African-Americans are far more complex then words can announce. When dance is included in this teaching style, the audience completely changes and the message, while similar, becomes so rich in other aspects that words simply don’t fulfill.

I’m glad that Brown has taken the unpopular route and chosen to work with social dance. I feel that it is very necessary and a style of art that we should all embrace. I look forward to seeing more pieces like this and exploring this in our performance as well.

My followup question: How can you find the perfect balance with all of the elements included? Do you just go with the right feeling?

Description is Key

Digital stories are a great way to present your audience with information that they typically would not encounter. Digital stories use a mixture of pictures, videos, audio, and film, to provide the audience with vivid imagery of the topic. My favorite part of a digital story is the audio because it can really shape the message or moral that the audience takes away.

After watching the digital story about Harvey Milk, I was really impressed by how detailed the storyteller was and the way she chose to narrate the story. The story starts off with background information and continues through a timeline, showing what Milk had accomplished overtime. I learned a lot about the LGBTQ+ community and the backlash they faced, especially during the time Milk was running for office. I had never heard of Milk and accomplishments, but after watching this story, I can describe him and speak to his character.

I would agree that this was a moving story, in the sense that it brought up a subject that isn’t commonly and openly discussed, but is very important. History should not only be discussed in textbooks or library books, but in conversations and stories as well. This digital story presented history in captivating and cohesive way. It made the audience want to learn more and want to really understand the subject at hand. The story was filled with descriptive language and various pictures, and had a great narrator. I would possibly change the order in which the narrator presented the story, and I would give the story a twist or moment of wonder. Overall, the story was a great one.
I also watched “Ammons Family Scrapbook”, which was a story on a family that lived in Virginia. One of the family members created a detailed scrapbook showcasing all of the family members at different occasions during the 1900s. The creator of the scrapbook chose specific moments and cut out specific people to paste into his scrapbook. The narrator does a great job of nudging us to pay attention to the nuances in the book, that are interesting and have some underlying messages.

I really enjoyed watching this digital story, because of the way it’s organized and the details that the narrator expresses. I would possibly be a little more creative with the scrapbook, if I were telling this story, but I don’t think that there’s anything missing from the story. When I create my story I’d like to use a different construction technique and I would avoid using the traditional chronological flow of a story. I would use a similar descriptive tone and also provide my audience with as much useful, accurate information as possible.

“FROM BROWN TO GREEN”

Visiting the exhibit, “Determined”, there was plenty of information presented that I had never learned or knew of before. While it was exciting to learn of information and facts that would normally not be given to me, other historical figures that I expected to be in the exhibit were omitted and their narratives weren’t told. Thinking of this, I remembered Free’s query prior to going upstairs to the exhibit: “Do we even want the museum to tell our stories and narratives or do we want to be able to tell the history ourselves?”

The section of the exhibit that interested me the most was entitled, “From Brown to Green”. This exhibit listed out several laws in the U.S. that directly affected the African-American population during its time and beyond. The first law included Brown v Board of Education, a law passed to integrate schools in the U.S. that ultimately did not result in integration. The entire section listed out laws such as Brown v Board, that were put in place by the Supreme Court to improve the status of African-Americans in their respective communities. The final law, Green v New Kent County was another attempt to desegregate schools in the U.S. and also took place in Virginia.

I don’t believe there was anything pertinent missing from the exhibit that I would’ve wanted to see there. I think it was very interesting the stories that were chosen and I am interested in learning more about how these stories were chosen and why they were showcased in a certain manner. I also saw a lot of bias from the museum’s exhibit, especially in the way it was physically constructed.

When we stepped into the museum, after receiving our tickets, the first thing I saw was an engraving on the wall of names and organizations that contributed to and sponsored the museum and exhibit. I recognized a few of the names as some of them were names of buildings on our campus. I thought about all the history I had learned about those people, and I knew that all of them were white or of European descent.

Before even walking up to the exhibit, I imagined in my head what the exhibit would look like and what stories it would tell. “Nothing fancy, straight to the pint, gets a message through, checks all the boxes.” In my time here in Richmond so far, I see a habit of checking the boxes when it come to the African-American or colored community and their requests. While the museum did shed some light on historical beings that were new to me, the information as a whole was not impressive and did not touch me.

This year being the 400th anniversary of forced African Migration to the U.S., specifically Virginia, this museum had a lot of artifacts to pull from and gather in order to showcase to the world a holistic view of the 400 years my people have been on this American soil. This holistic view, in my opinion, was not presented because African-Americans were not responsible for telling their own narratives to the world. Instead, the sponsors and members of the Virginia Historical Society were the authors and the African-Americans were the characters.

How to: Commemorate

The Gabriel Week event was a well-organized event, with a focus on community engagement. The event took place in the African Burial Ground and ensured that all attendees were also participants and students of the experience.

The event commemorated the week of Gabriel’s Rebellion and focused on Gabriel’s journey. I was shocked by the lack of markings or information given at the site in remembrance of Gabriel and others who were hung at the site. The location itself was not used by many to commemorate our Brother Gabriel, but I felt honored to be one of few to do so at this particular time and event.

The use of the arts (dance, music, and theater) was well-selected and gave just enough information about the location, event, and main character, Gabriel. The dancing was particularly my favorite part because it spoke to us all, while not saying a thing. The passion and feeling conveyed to the audience, through the Buju Banton and DJ Khaled collaboration, was one of the best modern hip-hop pieces I’ve ever seen.

I would agree that the goal was to commemorate Gabriel and his actions. For one, we were all encouraged to wear white. When we arrived, we were taught a march, which was another form of commemoration. We then walked as a community to the plaque on the highway where the location was briefly described. Walking back to the ground site, we were greeted by a touching performance that included a short skit and clips of songs, to remind us of Gabriel’s presence here in Richmond.

Participating in an event like this speaks to the importance of historic knowledge, acknowledgment of the past, and willingness to extend the truth. This event ensured that at least one of the parts of the event would affect every participant in one way or another.

The ritual at the end of this event truly tied it together and reminded us that everything we do has meaning, no matter how simple. We should be aware of our intentions and determine the best way to execute these intentions. I learned of more information on Gabriel and ways we can lift him up in incredible honor. I was also reminded that a moment of peace and silence before action never hurts. Since this event, I’ve tried to implement intentions in my everyday life and strategically plan out my time and energy before proceeding to immediately follow my thoughts or heart’s desires.

I think it is incredibly important to collectively commemorate important dates and people in our history and I am excited to continue doing this in our class and beyond. My only question would be, “What are some additional ways to commemorate Brother Gabriel?”

Excitement!

Entering MK’s class for the first time on Tuesday, can be best described as soothing. Prior to class, I was anxious about the required dancing skills, worried about the reactions from VCU students, and skeptical of how we would all work together. MK’s positivism, approachable attitude, and charisma, lightened up the tension and encouraged us to be free and participate.

I respected and admired collectively reviewing the guidelines the class had previously composed and then being able to expand the document with our thoughts as well. Compiling this list together, with everyone present, and the floor open for collaboration, really showed MK’s style of teaching. She encouraged us to digest the words already on their paper, and allotted time for those who wanted to voice their opinions and query what the class had already wrote.

After taking care of “housekeeping” or the logistics behind the class, MK jumped straight into dancing and her charisma was shown here as well. She used her body language to provoke everyone to think, move and feel the moment. The question, “ Who brought you here today?” really sparked me to think beyond the moment and use a small set of movements to then describe said person or people. Without MK’s comfort and openness, I’m not sure the class would’ve been able to participate so easily and engage with the activity fully.

I enjoy the class culture that MK has set and invited everyone to enter in. I enjoy the circle and openness, and the pauses for everyone to take a break, talk, and get to know each other. I believe that the fast pace keeps the adrenaline going and keeps the energy up.
The biggest challenge would be to never lose sight of this energy and to constantly keep up with the pace that MK has set. The pace is not unmanageable or hard to follow, but will take focus and desire to keep going. I am very eager to follow this pace and to constantly be moving, so this challenge may not be one for long.

I expect for these next few weeks with VCU students and even after 10/17, to be full of light and knowledge. I anticipate to learn more about the stories we will be told about RVA, learn from the people that we will be dancing with, and learn more about myself and what interests me. I believe that during this course, I will be charged with information and be able to explore ways of commemorating justice. I am enthusiastic to learn and take this journey with my fellow UR students, MK, Dr.Diaz, the VCU students, and the many others involved in Free’s project.

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