Dance film “IYAguration” celebrates black culture through dance styles and design

“IYAguration” aims to immerse its audience in the African culture from which it was inspired.

Choreographed by graduate student Kara Jenelle Wade, the dance film celebrates the resilience of black women in the African diaspora. The film will be screened virtually on Friday by the Department of World Arts and Culture / Dance. Drawing on Wade’s identity and heritage, the choreography is inspired by styles from across the African continent. Wade said she hopes the audience gets a glimpse into the history and culture of black women, and that black women themselves feel a sense of pride in being represented by dance.

“My inspiration came from my connection to my identity, my heritage and my roots as a black woman in America”, said Wade.

From the name of the play to the costume choices, Wade said every aspect of the film reflects her desire to express an authentic culture to the experience of black women. The name “IYAguration” is a combination of the Yoruba word “Iya”, which means “great mother” and “inauguration,” which celebrates the election of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color to be vice president. As for the costumes, Wade said the color scheme came from the royal colors, as well as purple, yellow and burgundy worn by Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Amanda Gorman during President Joe’s inauguration ceremony. Biden.

Even the hairstyle choices were meant to honor her African heritage, Wade said. Wade chose to have dancers wear their hair in natural styles in support of The CROWN Act, which continues to fight for black women to wear their hair natural and still be seen as professional. Bantu braids and knots display a sense of pride in the undertones that come with being a black woman, she said. Wade used the South African aesthetic with her jewelry choices and included masks in the costumes to reflect the current pandemic and its effects on minority groups in particular, she said. The costumes themselves used a print called Subra, a design that originated in Ghana with circles to symbolize water and the circle of life.

“A libation is a pouring of water that honors your ancestors and those who came before you,” Wade said. “I am also talking about the transatlantic slave trade, where we have lost many of our African brothers and sisters. “

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“IYAguration” was filmed in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, as Wade said the setting next to the ocean and the real sound images of the waves reflect the theme of the film’s release. Filming at the beach was also important as Wade said she wanted the film to take place in nature with man-made elements to reflect both the past, present and future of African culture.

For the choreography, Wade said it covers all genres to convey themes of racial injustice while celebrating the triumphs of black women. She said her technique encompasses the traditional West African djembe style, the Afro House from Guinea and South Africa, and movements from the Caribbean. The tones and movement combined with the polyrhythmic sounds create a style that is inherently African, Wade said.

These rhythms layered with the sounds of nature and the beating of drums underscore the tradition of dance lineages that go back to West Africa, said Tula Strong, alumnus and production consultant. The physical dance moves, sounds, and times the dancers talk to each other all work together to amplify the need to speak out against larger societal issues, she said. Amid a calculation surrounding white supremacy and racial injustice, Strong said a key part of “IYAguration” is encouraging its audience to rejoice in the celebration of black history and stories. .

“In all of this heaviness, it’s important that people of color have time to breathe,” Strong said. “I feel like this job is also about having joy and breathing.”

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The choreography came to life when combined with music, said Alexis Tongue, sound designer and third-year theater student. As a black woman herself, she said it was especially important to be represented on screen and to be part of a majority black production. Regarding the project as a whole, she said she hopes the audience can see how “IYAguration” uses dance to represent and intensify emotion, while also incorporating authentic rhythms originating in the countries where it originates from. the dances.

“I think sound is a really powerful storytelling mechanism,” Tongue said. “The music, percussion, and water sounds you hear give the room a clarity and cohesion that would not have been possible with mere visuals. “

Ultimately, Wade said she intended to create a cohesive piece that spoke about her own heritage, as well as the experiences of the other. Black woman who inspired her and which she hopes to inspire. She said that the choreography and the overall vision of “IYAguration” have been informed by the pride and resilience instilled in her by the women who came before her, especially her mother.

“If (the audience) is not black or of African descent, hopefully they will get a glimpse of our history,” Wade said. “For those who identify with work, I hope they can see a part of themselves in this work.”

Felipe H. Adams