Author: Sabrina Borneff Page 1 of 2

Pure Confidence Reflection

Pure confidence was an inspiring and interesting play, focused around the story of a black, enslaved jockey in the south during the 1800s. Throughout the semester I had been working on the costumes and parts of the set so it was exciting to see it all come together from the audience. I loved how intricate the woman’s clothing was and how the audience was incorporated into the stage setup. As the audience, we were sitting in the stands of a horse racing arena and it gave a very interesting dynamic to the play’s overalls atmosphere. We weren’t just watching the play, but we were also watching the audience’s reactions to what was going on, creating a more intimate setting.

As for the story that Pure Confidence told, it was empowering to see Simon speak up for himself against his white owners. He bought himself property even though enslaved people weren’t allowed to have property because they were seen as property. This was the way he fought back against slavery’s systemic structure. In the second act it was also interesting to see the difference in interaction between the two ladies, because now that the enslaved were free, they had an actual conversation, whereas before it was mainly Mattie talking and Caroline saying nothing in return except for yes ma’am or no ma’am. The play was well written and had some comical moments but for some of them I felt to awkward to laugh out loud. I found the way the characters were portrayed was clever particularly the switch between the beginning and the end of the war. It gave a depth to the characters that would have otherwise not arose.

Power Analysis Reflection

Exploring the question, “Why are people poor?” is a very interesting one because we often first look at a situation and see it as the people’s fault who are in that situation. Whereas in reality it has more to do with the systems that these people have to face instead of the people’s practices because the people are the victim. They have been put at a disadvantage by society, having to try to build themselves up in a place where all the different systems are just beating them down again.

In the first day of the power analysis we tried to solve this puzzle, we had to connect a three by three grid of dots with four straight lines. The reason we struggled so much with this puzzle was because we were thinking of the grid as a box and we didn’t want to make a mark outside of the box which is the only way to solve this puzzle. By looking at this square we discussed restraints that we impose on ourselves or that are imposed upon us from the outside. This discussion was very interesting to me because I hadn’t thought about how often we put constraints on ourselves, not even realizing that we are doing so.

Something that really surprised me as we were listing the different systems that are in our culture today, was just how many of them we face each day without thought. A few of the once we listed were the school, transportation, food, banking, and government systems that are so common that they are almost forgotten. And we saw that many of these systems are the cause of poverty. Another shocking moment for me was as we were listing the different names used to refer to different poor communities, it was very hard to find a name for the poor white community. Eventually, we found the word “trailer park” but this isn’t something that is in the city like all the others names we had listed. This just shows that in a city poor white people are spread throughout different neighborhoods, raising the question for me, why is only the poor white community spread out? Personally I think it has a lot to do with the education system and the housing system so these would be the two systems that I would like to further explore to see how they are creating a divide.

Cross Currents Reflection

This piece was choreographed by Charlotte Boye-Christensen for members of NOW-ID and some members of University Dancers. The style of the choreography was based in ballet but was mixed with many modern aspects. It was performed outside the main entrance of the American Civil War Museum, Historic Tredegar which added breathtaking scenery and lighting to the performance that formed it into a magnificent piece of art. There was also an aspect of poetry added throughout the performance which led me to find a deeper meaning in the performance. Overall, I found the way all these performance elements came together created an experience that was beautiful and powerful, even in the cold nights air.

Of all the sections of the performance I found the duet between Julia and Karen to be the most striking because the contrast between the music and their movements. The music was jazzy with a sharp rhythm while their movements were very calm and controlled, moving in a way that should have apposed but somehow meshed well with the music. The costumes that all the performers wore were very complementary especially with the lights illuminating them in different colors depending on the mood of the dance. The lighting designer, Cole Adams, did an incredible job not only lighting the dancers but also the walls and space around the site making the aged walls of the museum reflect the mood of the piece and turning them into part of the performance. My favorite part about the lighting was seeing the shadows of the dancers on the brick walls behind them, I wasn’t sure if this was intentional or not but either way it brought movement to the space, one reason why it was interesting to have the performance be site specific.

Throughout the performance, I tried to find the intention and meaning of the piece but due to the constant switching of the music it was difficult for me to understand. The live poetry allowed me to focus my ideas and then use what I had just heard to interpret the next dance section. In general, I felt the meaning to do with a strong collective of people fighting for a cause and the gradual branching out of individuals, first Julia and then Karen, to be different and start a revolution. The performance, being site specific, also brought attention to the James River shoreline and the old Tredegar ironworks facility. Being able to see such a powerful performance that was fully orchestrated in only two weeks was an amazing opportunity. I loved the way the dancer’s movements and the poet’s voice were illuminated by the surroundings. I hope there are more opportunities in the future to experience other sight specific works because they are each so incredibly unique.

Pretty Villas built on Ruinous Heaps

This chapter exposed how normalized slavery was to the people participating and growing up around it, because only those that came to visit were able to comment on the full extent of it all. “There are pretty villas and cheerful houses in its streets, and nature smiles upon Capital City of Slavery the country road: but jostling its handsome residences, like slavery itself going hand-in-hand with many lofty virtues, are deplorable tenements, fences unpaired, walls crumbling into ruinous heaps.” I find this passage very fitting because it goes along with the systemic structure of slavery that we have talked about, how the state was the one in control and that although everything looked nice on the outside, they were building it upon slavery which makes it wrong and ugly. But no one person or small group could really change much because it had been so embedded in the way the systems worked. I also found it very interesting that Richmond college, which is now the University of Richmond is so ingrained in Richmond’s history and we never even hear about the part that it played.

Systemic Normalization

“Pleasants lay mortally wounded. He died two days later. No one in Virginia started an antislavery newspaper for general circulation in the two final decades of state-sanctioned slavery in Virginia. White opposition to slavery was effectively silenced.” This passage pulled from the novel Richmond’s Unhealed History was of interest to me because I had always wondered if there had been a public voice speaking up for the slaves in Virginia and this passage sort of answered my question. I feel like especially now days but also in the past, the media has a large influence on our thoughts and beliefs. After this reading it makes sense that silencing antislavery press was a major concern for the city of Richmond. They didn’t want the citizens to be influenced by the newspapers, particularly because slavery had been state-sanctioned, and 40 percent of the population was enslaved. The fact that reporters were risking their lives to write antislavery articles shows how complicit the newspapers were at this time and the systemic way that slavery survived. Because they were lacking other perspectives no one saw how wrong it was because it was just a part of their everyday lives. Without a voice against slavery, it became normalized.

Intentional Adaption Reflection

Intentional Adaption Reflection: Write about something in your week where your intention arose.

My greater intention is to find happiness and fulfillment in what I do. 

The thought that came up to me the most often were conflicts with music and choreography for a charity lip sync I have been working on. I think this was the most prevalent in my mind because the performance is tomorrow and changes are still being made. My intention was pretty clear and present in these moments of conflict because the end goal of the dance was to just have fun with it and I let that happiness guide me. The group I am helping consists of 15 boys with very limited dance background and so teaching them, even what I found simple dance moves, was frustrating. It was rewarding after a while though because I could see how much fun they were having and I felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Creative Process Reflection

The three questions that inspired my reflection are as follows. What aspects of the creative process expanded your comfort zone the most and how did it make you feel in the moment? Who did you meet through the project that inspired you and why? How do you imagine the audience perceived the performance, what aspects may have influenced their perception?

The city of Richmond has so many different opportunities to offer.  Joining a new community or project is something that was extremely exciting but also nerve racking for me. There were many moving parts within this creative project and often I felt lost, having to trust that someone would guide me and that everything would workout at the end. Never knowing what to expect, I kept an open mind to the process used to create this elaborate performance, commemorating the space and our ancestors that brought us here. For me, this performance process expanded my comfort zone, connected me to many people I never would have met, and showed me how a diverse audience can come together and become part of the performance.

The part of the creative process that made me step out of my comfort zone and expand myself was during the performance when we had to make impulsive decisions based on everything we had prepared. It was the first piece I had ever performed where I had to physically interact and react to the audience, which made it difficult to prepare for because each audience reacts differently. During class, we created a set of agreements that we all decided to follow and to keep in mind during the creative process. Two examples of these were to “trust the process” and to “encounter the growing edge.” Both principles came into use as we moved from the studio to the site because I had no idea what was expected, and each rehearsal brought new awareness and material to the project. It wasn’t until the first dress rehearsal we had that I saw that there would be community members performing as well as the four professional dancers that had also been at the first march that we attended. Slowly seeing all these pieces come together made me trust in the process stronger than before because I started witnessing the creative process start to really develop. Although, the process wasn’t through until the final night when we were all present, in costume, and our last piece, the audience, was present.

Having an audience there really played to the principle of embracing the growing edge because it made me try something I’ve never done and make fast decisions on my feet. Having a large audience also changed the dynamic of the performance because it made the space feel occupied and alive. We were working in the medium of bodies which is much harder to navigate then open space. It also made me think a lot, even during the performance, about what the audience thought of the performance and how they may have felt occupying the stage. It also made me think about how everyone was looking at the same performance, but no one was seeing the same thing. I felt the reactions to the performance were very diverse, just like the audience that came to witness the piece. Depending on each person’s background and biases they would interpret the performance differently. Those coming with some background knowledge on Brother General Gabriel would understand and maybe enjoy the performance more than someone who has no idea about what had taken place. It was also interesting to compare my own view of the performance with some of my friends, because they were getting the full effect of the performance with the music, whereas we were dancing in silence. Some of my favorite comments that I heard from the audience after the performance were, “I loved the running part in the tunnel because it felt like you were pushing through the masses.” Another was, “I don’t know how you did it, but you were perfectly with the music, it was like each move had a note.” The second comment was personally very intriguing, and I wish I had gotten a chance to listen to the music while we performed. Peoples reactions to the piece were interesting to watch as we moved through the sections because there were so many different responses, which made each performance unique.

This project also created an opportunity to build community. In the weeks we were working on the project we got to know students, faculty, and community members that we may have never gotten the chance to meet otherwise. One of these wonderful people was Free Egunfemi who was one of the co-directors of the project. When we went to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture to visit the exhibit “Determined,” it was inspiring to listen to her story and beliefs of why and how she had started Untold RVA. Her conclusion was that for her it was about lifting up the stories of the black lives in the way she wanted to and not to rely on others. It was educational and inspiring to hear her opinion and to think of my own when it came to the subject of black lives in Richmond. Being in a group where everyone respected each other’s opinions it was refreshing and mind opening, getting to talk about these different issues.

Overall, this creative process was very different from anything else I have ever participated in and I am glad I got to be apart of it. Before this project I had never explored topics of racism in death and what it means to disrespect a burial ground. It was also fascinating to see how a community has been built to support and fight for the African Burial Ground and that we were able to join that community for a little while.


Is it Appropriate

I felt like I sort of knew what to expect walking into the theater because I had been working on different characters costumes and had a faint idea about the plot of the story. I was wrong. The story and the way the cast brought it to life was much more violent and personal then I had imagined. I also didn’t expect the characters to have such a deep history with one another before the play even started. The emotions that came up for me the most throughout the play were shock, uncomfortableness, surprise, and relatability. I found that the very beginning of the play felt forced and that the characters weren’t real, but when they started arguing I felt like they were really living in the play. The reactions to the pictures were interesting especially the sense of denial we felt from Tony. She didn’t want to believe that her father had anything to do with those pictures or racism. It showed a realistic perspective of the reactions people may have to finding out they were connected to the actions of the racists in the south.

I also found the children’s reactions to the pictures very interesting. They weren’t nearly as disgusted by them as the adults had been and Cassidy, the teenage girl, seemed more curious about how much they were worth then what they even meant. I wonder if this is because of ignorance or because they children are less connected to the past and feel like they can just ignore it. Also in relationship to our class, they talked about how there was a graveyard behind the back of the house and how the tombstones is what they were tripping over. And that there was also a slave graveyard down by the lake but how its hard to find because there are no markings for it. This relates directly back to our class and I found it interesting that the play write chose to include that specific detail.

Talking Through Movement

My preliminary questions to Camille were, what is your artistic process and how do you come up with the steps that you perform? After getting to hear Camille A. Brown speak and see her company perform this question became a little less foggy. In the discussion that took place in the library Camille was asked a similar question and responded by saying how she does a lot of talking with her dancers about the subject of the piece and then starts giving them movement. An element to Camille’s process that I found extremely interesting was when she said that she has her dancers do a phrase up to 12 different times so she can see which she likes best. What came across through her talk and the performance was that she wanted the performance to feel real. Every dancer had a personality and were working off each other on stage, this is something that I found unique to Camille.

Camille A. Brown’s work is social dance which embodies deep emotions and brings difficult subject matters in front of diverse audiences. Her stories are told through the black experience which is also educational for those of us who don’t experience that. She is unapologetic in her pieces which gives them a voice that other forms of communication don’t display. She uses movement as a language and sees her pieces often as a conversation which is new for me. The way she uses rhythm and voice in her pieces is very stylistic and is something not often brought into other styles of dance.

Another aspect that makes social dance so powerful, is that it teaches large diverse crowds about topics that are uncomfortable and otherwise hard to voice. It softens the blow while also being very impactful with a message that sticks with you after the performance. This is what I hope to bring to the Brother Gabriel performance. That we make the audience think about the underlying issues that have caused the lack of recognition to the burial ground and the history that rests within.

A question that came up for me during the performance was if the performance feels different to the dancers depending on the audience that is watching the performance?

The Art of Digital Storytelling

The first digital story that I focused on was the one about Harvey Milk. I feel that through this video I learned a lot about both Harvey Milk and the Castro street community. From a video perspective I feel like it had both strong and very weak aspects. The beginning drew in my attention and I liked that my eyes had something to follow, but as it went on it became more disorganized. The story started getting harder to follow and understand when the second voice started narrating. The volume levels of the two sections did not match, making me miss part of the story as I adjusted the volume. There was also a part of the video where the pictures and audio didn’t line up; in the section they were talking about Milk’s life, but they were showing newspaper articles about his death. And then at the end the absence of visual content confused me and pulled my thoughts away from the story being told. I was unsure if it was a creative choice by the students or if something was broken. As I create my digital story, I would like to include matching visuals to my audio throughout the entirety of the video, this way it is engaging and easier to follow.

The other digital story that I want to comment on was Sitting Pretty: Benches of Hollywood Cemetery. I feel as though the content within the story was matched accurately with the video which I really liked because it gave the content more depth. I also enjoyed the mixture between self taken videos and authentic pictures from the cemetery’s history. Her voice was calm and clear making it easy to listen and pay attention, I hope to sound similar when I create my digital story. The transitions between the different content areas in her script were smooth and not forced and this also goes for the visuals she used. Although I can’t say I found this story particularly interesting, I did feel like it was engaging and that I learned a little more about the benches in Hollywood Cemetery.

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