In her newest work, Virago-Man Dem, Bessie Award-winning choreographer Cynthia Oliver breaks with her convention of excavating black women’s worlds to explore the expressive cultures particular to Caribbean and African-American men and male-identified folk. The Bronx-born, Virgin Island-raised Oliver—who is a professor of dance and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research for the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields at the University of Illinois—utilizes movement, spoken word, original music from composer Jason Finkelman, visual design by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson of Black Kirby, projections by John Boesche, costume design by Susan Becker, and lighting design by Amanda Ringger “to uproot stereotypes related to black male identity and conjure more nuanced, expansive alternatives” (The New York Times). The work, which premiered at the 2017 Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival, was born out of Oliver’s “desire to offer to the world another view of black masculinity that is more nuanced and flexible and stylish and funny and tender and rich than those we are persistently burdened with in the contemporary American landscape.” With performers Duane Cyrus, Jonathan Gonzalez, Ni’Ja Whitson, and Niall Noel Jones, Oliver traverses the spectrum of Caribbean and African-American masculinities and discovers, in her words, more: “more possibility, more understanding of the complexities of black life, more tenderness, humanity, love.”
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