The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia presents Black Like Me: An Exploration of the Word Nxxxxx, a multimedia performance born of artistic collaboration and performed solo by dance artist Jade Solomon Curtis, on November 20 and 21, 2019 at the Chan Centre’s Telus Studio Theatre as part of the Beyond Words series. Black Like Me includes contributions from a team of forward-thinking artists and activists, resulting in a layered and thought-provoking work that raises important questions about language, history, prejudice, and reclamation.
The work, for which Curtis says “activism is the muse”, combines physical, verbal, visual, and sonic language to tell five narratives and perspectives in a unique way. Inspired by present-day youth and their casual use of one of the most defamatory and racially-charged labels in our language, the n-word, a collective of artists and visual design experts came together in the creation of Black Like Me to enhance a central message—that the word itself cannot be transformed. Curtis questioned including the word itself in the title of her piece, but knew that her discomfort meant she had to. “It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable—it makes me hella uncomfortable,” she said in a 2017 interview. Though Curtis says she can’t trace back to her first encounter with the n-word, she has experienced it in its many forms over the years—both thrown at her as a hateful and racist insult, and used as a positive term of endearment towards her by others in the Black community. “[It] has always been a word that loomed around me like a dark cloud, holding my black skin hostage.”
Curtis created Black Like Me, her first evening-length work as an independent artist, following four seasons as a celebrated soloist at Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater where she was beloved by the local Seattle dance crowd. The piece also marked the launch of her nonprofit organization, Solo Magic, which was formed as a platform to connect activist-minded artists. Says SeattleDances of Curtis, “She is a riveting performer (as anyone who saw her when she was with Spectrum can attest), but in her own work, her terrific facility coalesced with her unique artist’s voice to transfixing effect.”
In developing Black Like Me, Curtis worked closely with her partner and artistic collaborator Arif Gursel, founder of VibeHeavy Media Curation & Digital Design, as well as lighting and projected media designer Reed Nakayama, sound composer Barry Jones (aka DJ Topspin/Blendiana Jones), and Atlanta-based animation and media designer Daniel Barnes. “It was truly a collaborative process and I have never done anything like that before,” says Curtis.
Jade Solomon Curtis is a dance artist and choreographer who integrates classical technique and African-American vernacular movements with mixed media and Hip Hop culture. Her work oftens ponders tradition and reinvention, social constructs, and social justice. She was a 2018 Artist Trust Fellow and a 2017 University of South Carolina Inaugural Visiting Fellow; received the 2017 Seattle Office of Arts & Culture CityArts Project Award, the 2017 4Culture Artist Project Award. She was a 2017 Velocity Dance Center artist-in-residence and a 2018 Base Experimental + Art artist-in-residence. In March 2019, Curtis was an artist-in-residence at SLIPPAGE Lab at Duke University.
Chan Centre Presents Black Like Me: An Exploration of the Word Nxxxxx
Date: November 20, 2019 at 7:30pm + November 21, 2019 at 12:30pm
Ticket Price: $35/$27/$15
Address: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
University of British Columbia
6265 Crescent Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Box Office: 604-822-2697 / www.chancentre.com
Open Tue–Sat, 12pm–5pm
Photo by Nate Watters
Join DARPAN Magazine community on socialmedia!