After receiving an Emmy award in 2015, Viola Davis famously said in her acceptance speech that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Davis is not the only artist to address the lived experiences of women of color. Her speech is part of the history of strong female artists using their art to further their political beliefs.
Recently, UMBC senior Domineka Reeves continued that tradition with Together We Stand, presented at Baltimore Theater Project. She explained that the work is about “identifying how the past and current situations have effected women of color and our generation.” The piece was just under an hour in length and featured four performers, including Reeves herself. It was divided into three sections titled “Lost in a World,” “Fear,” and “Support.”
Overall, there were several compelling moments and recurring themes. The dancers were expressive not only in their movement, but also through their breath and facial expressions. They wore matching simple, black dresses. Reeves stood out as the lead with her fiery crimson hair, dynamic energy, and because of the rope handcuffs tied to her wrist. The choreography itself was an amalgamation of modern and ballet vocabulary. The dancers would frantically scrub the floor with their hands, suspend through a plank, and send slow, piercing looks towards the audience. In addition, video was projected onto the cyclorama behind the dancers. The video included interspersed clips of the dancers’ bodies from close up, hands pressing against fabric or a shower door, and the dancers moving in a studio.
The earlier sections lacked unpredictability. While they were beautiful, at a certain point I was able to sit back and know what was going to happen next. While there were hints of the drama that was to come, including a gesture in which the dancers appeared to be choking, I found myself feeling antsy for development. However, “Support” was absolutely striking. The whole stage was flooded with red light and, rather than melancholy or defeated, the dancers seemed proudly defiant. With the words of Maya Angelou reminding them that “everyone else and everything else are also God's creation,” the dancers’ virtuosity increased drastically. In the “Support,” section, I was truly able to see each of the dancers’ artistic voices. Near the end, Reeves performed a solo which included sensual movements, mimicking the act of being shot multiple times, and a bitter scream. It was heart-stopping.
Reeves stated that “Together We Stand shows audience members how throughout history women were constantly dealing with the same struggles. Women still have a long way to go for our rights and respect in society, but we need more female artists voicing their strong opinions and creating long lasting work.” The performance did artfully evoke the history of women of color—from physically being prisoners as slaves to feeling like prisoners within their own skin. Together We Stand not only conveyed Reeves’ message, but also was an artistic success for each performer. Reeves should be extremely proud of her work, her dancers, and her performance. As she said herself, there is a real need for female artists to create strong work and Together We Stand accomplished this goal.
Article written by Madeline Maxine Gorman