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MANCC Welcomes Visiting Artist Marjani Forté-Saunders

Published August 28, 2018

Memoirs of a… Unicorn

Aug 26 – Sept 5

The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) is pleased to host choreographer, Marjani Forté-Saunders, for a post-premiere residency to revisit and restructure her work Memoirs of a…Unicorn. Inspired by her father, a sci-fi enthusiast, and the simultaneous events of becoming pregnant with her son and the murder of Eric Garner, Forté-Saunders poses a set of questions about the impact of historic inequities on families, children, and our collective futures.

Forté-Saunders writes “there are so many stories left behind in the arduous journeys of migration, immigration, and surviving legitimized, systemic violence and oppression … if we knew the stories of our forebears how might we ‘fly’ differently?” Memoirs of a…Unicorn will weave historic and personal narratives into an embodied tale of fragmented histories, abiding love, and metaphysical warriorship.

Attempting to collectively imagine prosperous futures by engaging distal memories through shared storytelling, the artists engage local communities of color, descendants of large migrations, and immigrant and indigenous populations in conversation to create an embodied physical practice that recalls and envisions our lineages and legacies. To set the foundations of these relationships at MANCC, Forté-Saunders came to Tallahassee for a two-and-a-half day site visit in March 2018, during which she met with cultural leaders from the African-Caribbean Dance Theatre, Florida Folklife Program, Mitchell Young Anderson Museum (Thomasville, GA), John G. Riley House, FAMU Black Archives, and 621 Gallery, with the connecting support of dancemaker and Tallahassee resident Millicent Johnnie.

While in residence, Forté-Saunders will further develop the dramaturgical elements of the piece, an evening-length solo she will also perform, with mentorship from Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, renowned choreographer/founder of Urban Bush Women and FSU’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Dance. Composer Everett Saunders will further develop the sound score for the work, and will be mentored by FSU’s Associate Professor, Douglas Corbin, who has worked with Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham, American Ballet Theatre, and the Ailey School, and has made dozens of recordings for dance in the U.S. and Europe. Forté-Saunders will also be joined by esteemed playwright, Sharon Bridgforth, who will offer reflections on the work and support script development.

This residency represents the start of a new partnership program with the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s (CCI) Choreographic Fellowship program. CCI utilizes a two-prong approach that advances the work of individual women choreographers from the African Diaspora while bringing about systemic change in the field of dance. As part of this partnership, three UBW Choreographic Fellows will conduct pre-residency site visits to MANCC followed by creative residencies, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Entrypoint Scholars/Experts:

Dramaturgical Support

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, FSU’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in Dance & Founding Artistic Director/Visioning Partner of Urban Bush Women

Doug Corbin, Associate Professor in the FSU School of Dance, Composer/Musician

Engagement at FAMU

Dr. Nzinga Metzger, Professor of Anthropology

Engagement at FSU

Dr. Hannah Schwadron, Professor of Dance Studies

Dance Theory Class

Ethnographic Research

Baba Olu Segun, Story-teller, Drummer and Leader of Tallahassee’s African Caribbean Dance Theatre

See more on Marjani Forté-Saunders:

Forté-Saunders’ own words on Memoirs… on the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Fellows website

Video preview of Memoirs of a…Unicorn in advance of its premiere at New York Live Arts in 2017

Video of Forté-Saunders in conversation with Bill T. Jones

Movement Research Interview with Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Nia Love, and Ali Rosa-Salas discussing Memoirs… and the state of critical writing in the dance field

The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC), at the FSU School of Dance, is a choreographic research and development center whose mission is to raise the value of the creative process in dance.