The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Faculty Spotlight on A'Keitha Carey

A’Keitha Carey is an artist and scholar who hails from the Bahamas. In addition to her degrees in dance, she also currently working to complete her PhD and a Certificate in Woman’s Studies from Texas Woman’s University. She has published the article “CaribFunk Technique: Afro Caribbean Dance, Caribbean Feminism and Popular Culture” in the Journal of Pan-African Studies and has a forth coming publication in the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora’s book Re: Generations. A’Keitha created CaribFunk technique, a genre fusing Afro-Caribbean, ballet, modern, and fitness principles. The technique addresses the politics of “identity” and “becoming” through the exploration of the hip wine (circular rotation of the hip). Focusing on Black feminist writer, Audre Lorde’s use of the term erotic, in the sense that women achieve empowerment and knowledge through an energy—a creative energy that provides an awareness of self, history, and our bodies, A’Keitha argues that the hip wine is a practice of erotic power. The technique is rooted in an Africanist aesthetic and Euro-American expression coalescing the vertical and horizontal. It embodies Caribbean performance and politics, Caribbean popular culture as a methodological and pedagogical practice and explores Jamaican Dancehall and Trinidadian Carnival as a reservoir of knowledge that investigates the sensual and spiritual. Her research attempts to redefine Black femininity, establishing the relationship between the technique and Caribbean popular culture, addressing why it is important to Women of Color in academia, and reinforcing the marriage between Caribbean dance, sensuality, strength, and the erotic as power. This futuristic philosophy and technique attempts to rupture “tradition and history—breaking the aesthetic of the institution—exhibiting a hybridized pedagogy and technology of (re) imagination through a Diasporic consciousness. Critical Race Theory, Black Feminism/Womanism, Popular Culture, Critical Pedagogy, Cultural Studies and Curriculum Studies are her areas of interest.

Why did you choose the U?

I chose the U because it demonstrated many of the ideas and interests that I have as far as creativity and scholarship. It is a research one institution which is highly of interest to me as a researcher/scholar/ethnographer. I also saw how my research interest and praxis could serve both programs (BFA and MFA).

What are your strengths as a teacher, artist and art-maker and how do you hope to bring those to the U?

My strengths as a teacher, artist, and art-maker are in the areas of research, ethnography and interdisciplinary approaches to performance, pedagogy and choreography. I am interested in providing tools for the dancer/scholar and in that tool box I am interested in having the students query “who they are” in the process of investigation and how they bring their own voice to the articulation to the manifestation of these discoveries. Identity is primary and essential to me. I hope to help students find the agency and empowerment of knowing who they are as (whomever/whatever) . . .

Tell me more about the "hip wine."

The hip wine is the circular rotation of the hip that finds its way all over the Afro/Latin diaspora—finding roots in Congolese dance and various cultures throughout the African continent. I am particularly interested in how this often-sexualized dance movement can be used to liberate those that are oppressed. I often discuss this idea and practice of “speaking through the pelvis.” The pelvis gives live—it is a life force. There is an immense power in the pelvis; it supports and centers our body. For me, in the technique, the hip wine connects all of the movement genres together that I am exploring. The circle—the circle of life and the pelvis is of essence. The curvi-linear movement which is certainly a characteristic of Afro-Diasporic, is central to the philosophy of CaribFunk. I am interested in how the body is engaged (the sensory/sensual), how the body performs, and also the experiential. The hip wine is a moniker of Jamaican Dancehall and Carnival performance in Trinidad, I am interested in how to transport and translate these Caribbean cultural performances in the classroom/studio. These are the two (dominant) cultures that I am exploring when discussing the hip wine as praxis.

How do you combine your choreographic technique of CaribFunk and your research in excavating the repressed, curious and awkward sentiments towards issues of love, death, success, disease, and sex? What does that look like in the studio in your creative process?

CaribFunk was created out of my own experiences with oppression, body and identity politics, colonialism, and the politics of respectability. As with most activists, our movements are birthed out of conflict. CaribFunk is my approach towards addressing the sentiments that you mentioned. I see CaribFunk as a physicalized expression of finding voice and agency, particularly for those that have been shamed and policed because of how they engage with their bodies. In the studio, I ask my dancers to allow their senses to be a part of the experience. Carnival and Dancehall culture is used as a metaphor in the technique class. I remind the students that I have given them the blue print (the phrase/sequence). From the next moment on, I am interested in how they are going to accomplish the task of traveling through space, life etc. I ask them several questions: where are they in the process; where are they on the journey and who are they? The hips and torso are free! CaribFunk is the language for them to express themselves—not only their pains but also their pleasures.

Are there any non-dance practices important to you as an artist for your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being?

As far as non-dance practices, I am an avid gym junkie, which is why the movement takes on elements of cardio, fitness, and kick boxing-esque type expressions. I am also very spiritual. I pray and read my bible and really try to connect with my higher power. I am very thankful to my God who has blessed me with tremendous talent. My prayer is that I see my vision come to fruition. Like the verse says in Habakkuk 2: 2-4, essentially write down your vision, pray and meditate on it, though it tarry, wait for it, and it will surely come. I believe that! I am woman of faith. I am walking this journey often times not seeing where I am going but I know that God has given me a gift and purpose that needs to be shared. I believe He will provide all that I need for that to manifest.

I see in your bio that you're still performing and I'm amazed and impressed! How do you do all that you do?

Ha! I’m impressed too! I performed a solo “Corporeal Discourse” choreographed by Carlos Jones and myself last year (2013). One venue was at the Association for Blacks in Dance Conference in Washington, DC and at the Black Existentialisms: Situating Black Existential Philosophy Conference in Pittsburg, PA. I do miss performing! I am only doing solo projects these days and the purpose behind the performances are to really present the technique to diverse communities. I am just trying to get the world to know about CaribFunk in whatever way possible!!

Is CaribDanco here at the U with you or is it still located at SUNY Potsdam? What is new with CaribDanco?

CaribDanco goes wherever mama goes! The company is on hiatus currently so, no it is not at SUNY Potsdam. The company was developed as a research and performance based company. I essentially wanted to provide students with the opportunity to engage in my process as an artist/scholar. I really wanted to provide training for those dancers who were interested in cultural anthropology and ethnography. The model was built for college students because that’s where I am situated at the moment. I also wanted to provide them with as much professional experience as possible as well. When the company was with me in New York, we performed all through the state performing. Every year I took them to Manhattan to study dances of the Diaspora. We researched and study these dances throughout the year and then we had an opportunity to take class in as many forms and styles as our body would allow. They students took classes in Haitian, Samba, Afro-Cuban, West African, Sabar, Afro-Caribbean, and Congolese! It was amazing. I do miss providing these experiences and opportunities to the students. I am also interested in taking the students on a research trip with me at some point. Finger, toes, and eyes crossed. I really need to secure funding! The work that I am interested in pursing is not cheap…I am hopeful that I will get what I/we need!!!