Living Past (Re)memory (2011 – remounted for the ice in 2013)
Deneane Richburg, Artistic Director & Choreographer
A duet, this work has been performed both for the stage and on the ice and is based on the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison, which tells the story of the complicated relationship between Sethe and the ghost of her murdered eighteen year old daughter, Beloved.
HISTORY & RESEARCH
by Toni Morrison
Having escaped Sweet Home, the Kentucky based plantation on which she was a slave and was tormented by Schoolteacher (the overseer) and his nephews, Sethe has relocated to 124 Bluestone Road, her mother in laws’ home outside of Cincinnati with her daughter, Denver. To keep her children safe from slavery, Sethe attempted to murder all four of them, succeeding in killing only the oldest daughter:
Simple. She just flew. Collected every bit of life she had made, all the parts of her that were precious and fine and beautiful, and carried, pushed, dragged them through the veil, out, away, over there where no one could hurt them. Over there. Outside this place, where they would be safe.” (Morrison, 1987)
The novel begins 18 years after these traumatic events; 124 Bluestone road is haunted by the baby ghost who is finally exorcised from the house by Paul D, another former Sweet Home plantation slave that has recently come to visit. One afternoon, Sethe, Denver, and Paul D discover an 18 year old woman sleeping in front of the house, who, by all appearances seems to be the physical manifestation of Sethe’s deceased daughter. As expressed by literary critic, Stephan Metcalf, this is a story of what Morrison terms “re-memory, a kind of psychic haunting in which the specifics of a traumatic incident are told and retold, even as the teller tries to block their full emergence into the conscious mind.”
Deneane Richburg is the founder and artistic director of Brownbody.
As the creative home for Richburg’s choreographic work, through Brownbody, she honors the complex narratives of U.S. based Black diasporic communities by taking participants on journeys that disrupt assumptions, ideologies, and disenfranchising popular narratives around blackness. As a modern dance choreographer and former competitive figure skater, Richburg is interested in pushing the boundaries of creative expression on the ice via engaging these narratives as a framework in which somatic based movement exploration occurs. Richburg blends different movement worlds and creates work for both the ice and the stage.
Deneane grew up a competitive figure skater—spending time in spaces where she felt she had to check her racial/cultural identity at the door, as the world of competitive skating was immersed in an ideology that excluded her ancestry’s truths. Working and growing in this space, to quote Zora Neale Hurston, she always felt “most colored when [she was] thrown against a sharp white background.”
As she got older, she realized she needed to carve out a space for herself and her ancestral history hence her decision to create Brownbody. Richburg received her MFA in dance and choreography from Temple University in 2007, an MA in Afro-American Studies from UW Madison, and a BA in English and African American Studies from Carleton College. Working with Lela Aisha Jones, Richburg was also the Co-founder of The Requisite Movers, a Philadelphia based program that supports the work of Black female choreographers. Deneane has danced for a number of artists including, Chris Walker, Jose Francisco Barroso, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, Lela Aisha Jones and has performed with Off Leash Area, Flyground, and Kariamu and Company. Richburg is a grateful recipient of a 2017 McKnight Choreography Fellowship, administered by the Cowles Center, funded by The McKnight Foundation, a 2019 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, and a Dance/USA Fellowship to Artists made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Lela Aisha Jones is the Associate Artistic Director of Brownbody.
Lela is an artist scholar, movement performance artist, interdisciplinary collaborator and founder of Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround, her creative home. A proud native of Tallahassee, FL, she feels quite fortunate to live and make dance in Philadelphia, PA. Lela’s work intimately intertwines personal and collective lived experiences of diasporic blackness as archived in and excavated with the body through dance.
Lela’s most recent choreographic and performance endeavors include Same Story Different Countries Project in Johannesburg and Cape Coast, South Africa (2017) directed by Dr. Lynnette Overby, Nia Love’s g(1)host: lost at sea at Gibney Dance (2019), Onye Ozuzu’s work at Dance Gathering in Lagos, Nigeria (2019), and a commissioned presentation of her work Plight Release and the Diasporic Body at the African American Museum of Philadelphia with, and in response to, the work of visual artist and scholar Fahamu Pecou (2019). Some of her most influential professional experiences have been in movement practice with Nia Love, Christal Brown | Inspirit, Barak Ade Sole, Moustapha Bangoura, Anssumane Silla, Sulley Imoro, Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, and Urban Bush Women.
Lela earned a B.S. in Health Science Education from the University of Florida, an M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University, a Ph.D. from Texas Woman’s University, and is a new member of the dance faculty at Bryn Mawr College. Her doctoral work was focused nomadic/migrating identities, diasporic citizenship, as well as collective philosophies and practices of integrity in Black and African diasporic dance teaching, choreography, and performance.
Her awards and honors include a 2015 Leeway Foundation Transformation Award and a 2016 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Lela is grateful to continue her work as an artist scholar, movement performance artist, and interdisciplinary collaborator with Brownbody and as a member of the faculty in the Bryn Mawr College Dance Program.