“From the moment I stepped into Okwui’s rehearsal space, I felt included in her process. Being immersed in her process not only informed me about her choreographic voice but also educated me about the production aspect of a work. Watching the way that she intertwined singing, acting and movement was breathtaking and truly inspiring.”
– Cheri Stokes, MFA. School of Dance, 2017
MANCC Choreographic Fellow Okwui Okpokwasili has been named as a recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Foundation. According to their website, the MacArthur Fellows Program “awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Twenty to thirty fellows are selected annually. Okpokwasili came to Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) as a collaborator with Living Legacy Artist Ralph Lemon in 2010 and 2014 (Lemon, himself, was awarded the 2015 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama) and returned as a MANCC Choreographic Fellow, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to further the development of her works “Poor People’s TV Room” (2016) and “Bronx Gothic” (2012).
Okpokwasili engaged with students in a variety of ways during her various MANCC visits… .
During her “Bronx Gothic” (2012) residency she engaged with FSU Religion scholar, Dr. Joseph Hellweg and Ph.D. candidate Aaron Ellis as part of her research and shared her work in progress with FSU School of Dance students during an all school forum. “Bronx Gothic” is framed within both an oral storytelling tradition that recalls the griot of West Africa and Victorian gothic novels while exploring the thematic questions of assumptions and expectations that come with an “African” or “African American” subject/body. In addition, the artist explored the possibilities of interchange between the performer and audience, how the performance space could be designed to reflect an intimacy that is inviting but slightly unsettling, and the ways in which she might build a one woman performance piece that interrogates the possibilities and the limitations of this particular framework.
During her “Poor People’s TV Room” (2016) residency she brought FSU School of Dance alum, Katrina Reid, as her collaborator and again engaged with students through open rehearsals and a public showing. “Poor People’s TV Room” is rooted in a kinetic history of collective action in Nigeria, drawing from historical events in order to both explore the amnesia around collective action initiated by African women and build a narrative around the impact of that erasure. Okpokwasili worked closely with student Cheri Stokes (MFA 2017) as a studio assistant and received costume support from student Bridget Close (MFA 2019).
The College of Fine Arts, School of Dance, and MANCC are all extremely proud of Okwui Okpokwasili’s extraordinary artistry, dedication and hard work.