A new performance series coming to the Detroit Artists Market questions how freedom and pleasure manifest for black women at home.
Co-created by Jennifer Harge, dancer and artistic director of Harge Dance Stories, in collaboration with Taylor Renee Aldridge, curator and co-founder of arts.black, “Fly | Drown,” is an immersive experience that engages the emotional complexities of black womanhood and ideals of freedom and pleasure in domestic spaces through ancestral histories and rooted lineage.
“They seem like desperate spaces, but, essentially they often go hand-in-hand just to signify freedom, escape and protection in many ways.” - Taylor Renee Aldridge, curator
For the past two years “we’ve been ruminating on what freedom means and what it has meant for black folks historically,” Harge says. The series “takes a lot of cues from the ways in which black folks have freed themselves. In some cases that meant drowning yourself or throwing yourself off of a ship, and as a way of thinking about flying home to a place of freedom, whatever freedom meant for people in that moment.”
The series explores these “modes of freedom” rooted in African-American history in the home space, she says.
Aldridge alludes to this history and the relationship black people have always had with water and flight as a way of combating a fugitive status.
“They seem like desperate spaces,” Aldridge says, “but, essentially they often go hand-in-hand just to signify freedom, escape and protection in many ways.”
“I feel like a lot of times, we privilege trauma. And so, to see Jennifer perform in a way that prioritizes how to make the body feel good, I think is just a really beautiful thing to see.” - Taylor Renee Aldridge, curator
Although Harge is trained in academic dance, in ”Fly | Drown,” she abandons that technique and personalizes the performance with stories of her immediate history as well as experiences of black women. The piece travels through states of fear, vulnerability, calm and fellowship while celebrating how domestic interior spaces assist in pleasure practices of black womanhood.
“I feel like a lot of times, we don’t really get to focus on the pleasure of the black experience in visual art making,” Aldridge says. ”I think a lot of it sort of privileges trauma, more times than not. And so, to see Jennifer perform in a way that works through trauma, yes, but really prioritizes how to make the body feel good and making clear that the domestic space is a site where that is able to happen, I think is just a really beautiful thing to see.”
Click the player for Amanda LeClaire’s interview with artist Jennifer Harge and curator Taylor Renee Aldridge.
“Fly | Drown” debuts at the Detroit Artists Market on Friday, September 13 at 7:30pm. For a full list of events and performances surrounding the month-long installation, visit hargedancestories.com.
This story is a part of Detroit StoryMakers.
WDET’s Detroit StoryMakers initiative empowers local storytellers in bringing Detroit’s stories to life. Support for this initiative comes from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs and through matching gifts from station donors.