ARTIST SPOTLIGHT 06: TARA AISHA WILLIS
Get to know Tara Aisha Willis, choreographer, and 6 of 10 presented artists during our upcoming performance series, Volume VI, Issue II: MOVEMENT CURRENCY, from August 19 to 21, 2016.
Tara's work "Bertha" is named after the possibly mixed-race madwoman kept in the attic in Charlotte Brontë’s novel "Jane Eyre," and taps into a memory-plagued, physically emotional landscape. Learn more about what inspires Tara's work on our Artist Spotlight and see her work in 02 DEBT // Saturday, August 20 at 7:30pm + 04 CREDIT // Sunday, August 21 at 7pm .
TARA AISHA WILLIS
Three words that Describe your Choreography
Opacity, Sensation, Conjuring
Tara Aisha Willis is a Summer 2016 Chez Bushwick Artist-in-Residence and has shown choreography at Movement Research at Judson Church, BAX, Roulette, THROW, Dixon Place, The Painting Center, and AUNTS. She recently danced for Kim Brandt, Megan Byrne, Sarah A.O. Rosner, and Anna Sperber. A Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at NYU, Tara’s writing appears in the Movement Research Performance Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, Women & Performance, TDR, and Magazin im August (forthcoming). Tara co-edited with Thomas F. DeFrantz a special issue of The Black Scholar entitled “Black Moves: New Research in Black Dance Studies.” She co-curated the Movement Research Festival Spring 2016 and is currently their Coordinator of Diversity Initiatives.
About Tara's Creative Process
I create work in order to access and alienate the temporal, spatial, and bodily conventions of performance—beginning/middle/end; onstage/offstage; moving bodies as presentational/internal; performers as desiring/repelling audience gaze—as they play over the racial and gendered, specificity of the performers. My works build out from the dynamic group relationship, archiving our solidarities and differences, both in the world and in the collaborative act of finding the grit within each formally structured improvisation score.
Do you work in other mediums other than dance/performance? If so, what, and how/why did you get into it?
I was a writer first. Writing about dance was a natural extension of being a creative writer and a practicing dance artist: it combines my two things and allows me to be both conceptual/theoretical and practice-focused with both dance and writing.
What influenced the concept/work that you are presenting at the CURRENT SESSIONS?
I’m thinking a lot about the racial subtext of the possibly mixed-race madwoman kept in the attic of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, who also gets a voice and history in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. Sound designer Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste came to rehearsal and reminded me about the film Eve’s Bayou, too, which is tapping into a similar gothic, memory-plagued, physically emotional landscape, but in a particularly black way. I stumbled across the unsettling collage works of German queer feminist artist Hannah Höch, from the early 20th century. There’s something about the strange reassembling of figures and bodies in her scenes that’s potent and familiar, that reveals more because of its fracturing, but also conceals something.
What does the dance/performance world need more of? Less of?
Less tokenism, more fearlessness around curating bills with mostly artists of color and other intersections. More opportunities for “earlier career” artists to show work longer than 10-20 minutes, so that they aren’t suddenly saddled with the “evening length” structure with full production value and enough time/space to work, but having never had all or any of those three things before.
See Tara in Volume VI, Issue II: MOVEMENT CURRENCY , in 02 DEBT // Saturday, August 20 at 7:30pm + 04 CREDIT // Sunday, August 21 at 7pm .