the anti-dream deferred dance project

the anti-dream deferred dance project is an investigation into the politics of the body and a creation of m. a. brooks--a san francisco based performance artist.

Improvising While Black with Karen Nelson

                 m.a. brooks + karen nelson ~ creative interventions on blackness

                                                seattle: sat, dec 21 @ Velocity

                          4-6pm “Speakeasy” (free) ~ 6:15-9pm Workshop (donation)

                    Improvising While Black (IWB): Chronicling a Black aesthetic

What is dance improvisation? What is Blackness in a world where most things Black and/or African are reviled, demonized, erased while at the same time desired, coveted and appropriated? What is a Black Aesthetic? Is it all made up? Improvising While Black (IWB) is dancer and performance artist m.a. brooks’ inquiry into racial representation, spontaneous movement creation and survival.

This project, is born from m.a. brooks’ wish to explore blackness and survival, and from her own “driving while black” experience in SF Bay Area. m.a. discovered “Tuning Scores” as taught by Karen Nelson, and invented by Lisa Nelson who worked with the question Steve Paxton proposed, “What does a body need to do to survive?” m.a. has found Tuning as a way to deepen her ability to integrate the theoretical and practical aspects of her project in an embodied way.

m.a. and karen invite you to join their collaboration and research.

The Wreck trailer

The Wreck: Let us meet there

Thoughts on The Wreck:

Where do I go from now—2013?

1977 recording of Audre Lorde reading The Black Unicorn.

Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde in conversation.

Diving Into The Wreck.

What is present in this dialogue—histories, buried dreams, abuse, a submerging, a going down and into in order to come up and out of.

Distinctively black, the black experimental lineage, chronicling a black aesthetic.

Am I going into the black arts movement or am i going into the feminist movement—complicated answer—the black feminist movement.  

The black feminist voice and the lesbian voice and the queerness of me bringing in Abby Lincoln and Max Roach and the radical scream of NOW;

of how I navigate beyond the dichotomies that they had to live in—black, lesbian, radical. I am all and none of this.

My personal wreck resides in the soul of chaos.  Outside and inside—no separation.  

The Wreck is our meeting place.  Let us meet there.  We live there anyway.

The Wreck—my latest project, was performed Monday June 3, 2013 at UC Davis where I recently completed the first year of my two year MFA graduate degree program.  The Wreck was a collaborative performance event with Performance Studies Ph.D. candidate Kevin O’Connor and undergraduates Hien Huynh and Alyssa Burton. It investigates the intersections of post racial and environmental crisis and is part of my ongoing Improvising While Black project which examines how African Americans use improvisation as a tool for survival.


Sugar Blues is an work-in-progress dance/performance project investigating sweetness and power while questioning sugar production and consumption through a post-colonial lens. The project was conceived and performed by m. a. brooks in collaboration with h.k. Music is Nina Simone’s version of Sugar In My Bowl and the text is from James Baldwin’s essay Price of the Ticket. As part of this project, brooks asked some friends, “What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sugar?” Their responses are interspersed throughout the text. This excerpt was performed at the African American Arts and Culture Center as part of Queer Rebel Productions in July 2011.

Intersection of the Timeless Moment-: Installation artist Lindsay King collaborates with m. a. to make this dance about exploring imaginary worlds.  From the Million Fishes Archive 2007.

The year my arm fell asleep

This is the year that my arm fell asleep.  It feels like this; my fingers get all tingly and the arm goes numb when it is under stress or if I do too much heavy lifting.  My doctor at Kaiser said it was a slight pinch to the nerve in my cervical spine, maybe.  The doctor was not sure of his diagnosis nor was the Physical Therapist at Kaiser.  I stopped seeing them both.  I have been trying to maintain a low cost $15 per session acupuncture treatment regimen at Circle Community Acupuncture and it’s working slowly.  My arm is slowly waking up, I think.  I’ve never had an injury that was ongoing like this.  I’ve been very lucky. Now that I’m 40 everyone is blaming it on my age.

I think it’s about waking up to my kinesthetic needs, delving into trauma present in the body and simply becoming more aware of what I am holding in my musculature, nerves, joints, blood, and cells.  If it’s aging then it’s also a certain wisdom in the body saying pay attention and listen.  I am a young elder and I am appreciating these subtle shifts.  There is a lot to learn, a lot to pay attention to, and a lot to cherish.  My arm is waking up slowly.  It only falls asleep a few times a week now versus a few times a day.  How do I keep paying attention when it completely wakes up?  

Why I created the ADD Dance Project

I created the ADD Dance Project for artists who have had to deal with dreams deferred and who have some form of attention deficit disorder—real or imagined.  Most artists experience all of the above but my particular interest is in artists who have been systematically excluded from society because of their race, gender, class status, and so on. I’m particularly drawn to artists who choose to claim beauty beyond capitalism, who use the body as the site for performance, who are fierce, radical, and non apologetic.

I also created ADD Dance as a way to flush out all of my ideas in one place.  Currently I am working on a short piece as part of the Home Theater Festival (check out the link below) investigating sugar in relation to colonial rule in the Americas.  I also felt like it would be important to remember and celebrate James Baldwin in that process.  As a result, the piece will be a tribute to Baldwin but I’m still working on connecting the dots.  And then there is Dirtstar—trash transformed, seeds sown, queer family forged—a group of dirty artists redefining “sustainability” in a queer context who I’ve been collaborating with for three years.  We’re doing the third and final installment of our collaboration this year on June 19th at the Tenderloin National Forest as part of the National Queer Arts Festival in SF. And finally there is the continuous and ongoing engagement with an embattled environment called San Francisco. Last week, I went to an event called Black Love in Public in Oakland where black folks were invited to be intimate in public.  Black folks from all over the bay area (primarily the east bay) showed up at 12 noon in front of Oakland City Hall and continually embraced each other for up to two hours. Whenever I told other people that I lived in San Francisco, they would say “How do you do it?” or “I had to move to Oakland”.  One woman said, “Black people are an endangered species in San Francisco” and sadly, I had to agree.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

—   Langston Hughes