Spotlight Series

Spotlight: ARTS.BLACK

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some of the many arts publications that we respect, and this week we’re devoting our attention to ARTS.BLACK. “Loud.Black.Resident III” is the first selection from co-editors Taylor Renee and Jessica Lynne: “In 2016, we commissioned our first interview series focused on performance from Arielle Julia Brown, theater artist and performance curator. This conversation with Amara Tabor Smith invokes the spirit of Ed Mock, the important San Francisco-based choreographer, making work for and with Black women, and what it means for Black communities to create sites that prioritize our well-being.” The interview was originally published on October 11, 2016.

HouseFull at Regina’s Door, “We Are Staying Right Here,” Photo: Robbie Sweeny Photography

HouseFull at Regina’s Door, “We Are Staying Right Here.” Photo: Robbie Sweeny Photography.

Arielle Julia Brown: What is your name and what work do you do?

Amara Tabor Smith: My name is Amara Tabor Smith and I do what is generally called dance theater. I now call what I do Afro-Futurist Conjure Art. My work is rooted in ritual that is grounded in Yoruba traditions. I work mostly in non-traditional theater spaces, and at the times when I use the theater, I tend to use it in non-traditional ways.

AJB: Where would you situate your artistic and aesthetic lineage? What were some of the moments in your career that brought you forward to making afro-futurist conjure art?

ATS: I became a dancer when I met Ed Mock. He was a choreographer, performer, Black, gay artist making work in the ’70s and’80s in San Francisco. He died in 1986 from complications with AIDS. He was a conjurer. Spirit just worked through him. He didn’t even name it as such, it just was. I was a teenager when I started studying with him. I remember being in his presence and feeling like I was in the presence of God. He was largely an improviser. He was my first teacher.

I have had the opportunity to both study and work with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. I danced with Urban Bush Women on and off for ten years and I was the Associate Artistic Director of that company the last year that I worked with them. With Jawole, there is always the presence of spirit in her work. We would go to these elevated spaces and we would draw on the energies that worked through the individual dancers. She created this seminal work that I didn’t dance in. It was called “Praise House.” Julie Dash made a film about that piece. It was a really powerful work about our houses of worship so there was always—we were always invoking spirit in the work that we did.

Read the full conversation here.