Dancers-In-Residence Offer Free Workshop & Performance June 4: ‘Who We Say We Are’

5/25/202314 months ago

RootsUprising dancers.

“What does it feel like to be a member of a community? And how do we hold on to our identity and sense of representation?" are questions being explored by choreographer Nailah Randall-Bellinger and the dancers of RootsUprising as part of a new Cambridge Artist Residency Program from Cambridge Arts.

Their artist-in-residency project, “Who We Say We Are,” is being developed as a choreographic, multimedia project on citizenship, identity, and belonging. It aims to expand the conversation of belonging in the City of Cambridge through dance. It employs live performances, filmed performances, audio interviews, and community conversations and workshops to expose the present and lived reality of systemic racism tethering our city.

Upcoming FREE, public events include:

June 4:
Noon to 5 p.m. “Into the Roots” workshop at St. Augustine African Orthodox Christian Church, 137 Allston St., Cambridge, a community conversation and acknowledgement and celebration of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) residents of Cambridge. Using the lens of art and specifically dance, the gathering will be a time to create a sense of belonging and holistic healing. Space is limited, register:

7 p.m. The performance "Who We Say We Are" at Jose Mateo Ballet Theater, 400 Harvard St., Cambridge, asks the question “How do we truly belong in a community as our authentic selves, considering our complexities?” The evening of sharing includes seven dancing texts from RootsUprisings’ repertoire, including the premier of three new works: "Who We Say We Are, a dance film": "Pulsation": and "Packing the Sack." Doors open 6:30 p.m. No registration required.

Aug. 12: “Into the Roots” conference and “Who We Say We Are: performance at Cambridge's Multicultural Arts Center will aim to engage and center community, learning, and experiences that have been accumulated along the way.

All of these events are free and open to the public (advance registration required for the workshops).

In addition to the original artist commission by Cambridge Arts, the project is supported with an Art for Social Justice Grant from Cambridge Arts and an Art for Spatial Justice Grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

“Who We Say We Are” takes as its subjects the dancers of RootsUprising, a collective of intergenerational BIPOC women with diverse origins and connections with Cambridge, who offer a glimpse into their lived experiences as dancers and as people with multiple intersecting identities. Through a choreographic weaving of audio voice-overs, movement documentation, and live dance performance, we see how they navigate through the social construct of belonging and identity in Cambridge, interspersed with recorded interviews with Boston-area leaders for an additional layer of perspectives. Ultimately, the work seeks to be a platform for reflection and open, generative conversation towards true belonging and transformative justice in our city.

“Who We Say We Are” is a pilot program that will inform a citywide Artist in Residence program scheduled to launch in the summer of 2023. The City of Cambridge’s Artist in Residence program will embed artists in city departments and bring creative and multi-disciplinary thinking into municipal work. Artists will have access to city departments, initiatives, and municipal staff to understand the inner processes that make Cambridge a livable community. This partnership between artists and city departments will help fulfill a key recommendation of the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

The “Who We Say We Are” creative team includes:
• Nailah Randall-Bellinger, choreographer and dance historian
• RootsUprising dance company: Jenny Oliver, Imani Deal, Jeryl Palana Pilipal-Brown, Toni S. Singleton, Patricka James, and Jossie Coleman
• Regie Gibson, poet and educator
• Najee Brown, playwright, facilitator and artistic director, Multicultural Arts Center
• Christina Belinsky, cinematographer
• Janice Lowe, poet, musician, and educator