Visiting Artist Leslie Parker came to MANCC for her first residency from March 6 to 19, 2023, following her previous site visit in February. During her March residency, Parker worked with her collaborators to further develop “Divination Tools: imagine home,” the latest iteration of her ongoing epic project “Call to Remember.”
During her site visit, Parker conducted two Black dance improvisation workshops for FSU’s School of Dance students. These workshops simultaneously engaged students and informed Parker’s work. Parker then invited FSU School of Dance MA graduate student Tenisha George to work with her and her collaborators during her March residency. They explored the multiple perspectives on improvisation using a Black femme lens to further develop “Divination Tools: imagine home.”
“I was able to work with Leslie for her week-long residency over spring break, and it was not at all what I expected, in a good way! I loved working with her on ‘Divination Tools,” said George. “It was a challenging experience at first, as I had to fully immerse myself in the work to translate the message for the audience. I was fortunate enough to be invited to work with Leslie again outside of MANCC and FSU, and I am very grateful for this door that has been opened for me. Working with her will help me in my development as a dancer and a person and I love to be a part of this work that has a rippling effect in today’s world.”
In addition to working with Tenisha George, Parker worked with three musicians and sound designers, another dancer, a dramaturg and a writer to further enhance her piece. With her collaborative collective, Parker drew from Blackness in music, dance and storytelling in real time as a multi-year, multi-city project.
During her MANCC residency, Parker consulted Dr. Billy Close, Assistant Professor and Director of Service Learning and Mentoring in the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Florida State University, Challen Wellington from the Center for Leadership & Social Change, April Fitzpatrick, PhD and Dr. Ivanna Pengelly, all regarding issues of social justice and the history and cultural significance of Black people within the Tallahassee community. Additionally, Parker and her collaborators engaged with site-specific locations such as Jefferson County’s Slave Canal, Lafayette Heritage Trail Park and Lichgate on High Road in discussion about the spiritual connection between the land, water and ancestral history to further inform “Divination Tools: imagine home.”
The residency culminated in a fellowship dinner that included Parker and her collaborators, FSU School of Dance students, faculty and staff and community members who had contributed to the success of Parker’s residency.
Black feminist scholar, dancer and educator Naimah Petigny’s involvement was arranged through the Embedded Writers Program, which is funded by the Mellon Foundation. Petigny, along with Parker and two other black dancemakers, contributed writings on the Call to Remember project, which was published to coincide with Parker’s May 2023 premiere. MANCC supported these writings through its Commissioning Publications program, also funded by the Mellon Foundation.
“Divination Tools: imagine home” premiered at Walker Arts Center May 11 to 13, 2023.