by Marie Antoine, The 2019 Kriyol Dance! Collective Public Voice
The Nou Series, an experiment in embodied knowledge, resistance, and history that prioritizes “nou” (“us” in Haitian Creole) was a layered performance, choreographed and curated to explore the history of the Wyckoff House, documenting memories of native Lenape peoples and enslaved Africans in Canarsie, and the migration of Black Caribbeans to Brooklyn. Through a lens of muscle memory and spirituality, we hoped to build a connected narrative and express it through movement.
Ultimately, our goal was that by positioning our bodies as museum installations we can expand and interrogate stories and processes of cultural preservation and community identity. Each layer of our performance, from the wardrobe to the sequence of installations, contained a piece of this intention which added more depth to our storytelling.
The audience was taken on a public Walking Tour featuring an interactive witnessing of the body installations. Moving through the Wyckoff House Museum the audience engaged with “installed bodies” that shared about what KDC members learned, what they know, and what they hope to see in the future using movement informed by their time in this residency.
During the tour, attendees were encouraged to:
The feedback we have received has been truly heartfelt and reassuring. Attendees have described their experience as transformative, powerful, and thought-provoking. Attendee notes that the work evoked ideas about spirituality and honoring women and ancestry. It brings another level of meaning to our work when our intention is clearly felt and absorbed.
Wyckoff staff shared that this was the first time in the museum’s history that the Wyckoff legacy was interpreted from the perspective of the African and Indigenous in a way that challenges the integrity of this legacy. Intentionally, the piece questioned both staff and Wyckoff family accountability to the treatment of the enslaved Africans and Indigenous people who also occupied the land.
This performance has solidified the power of our collective movement in a way that feels exciting as we continue to grow our work. It speaks volumes about our capacity moving forward given how seamlessly we were able to create a connected story though each of us as individuals moved from a distinct perspective and dance vocabulary. This kind of cohesion is a great building block for us to continue to teach, learn, and create collaborative action for folks that think differently than we do, and, for communities that want, need, or can benefit from this type of work.
If you attended the performance we also want to hear your experience. What were some of the thoughts, questions or feelings that came up for you?
*This performance is part of the Protest Garden Project, made possible in part by the Lincoln Center Cultural Innovation Fund, which is generously supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and administered by Lincoln Center.
Sak Rete Ou? (What's Stopping You? in Haitian Creole), holds space for reflections, meditations, poetry, video blogs, and capacity to captivate readers through creative writing. To the question, sak rete ou?, we respond "Nou Se Kriyol!" (We are the Children! in Haitian Creole), implying and calling on the strength, kindness, and revolution of our Haitian ancestors to move forward!