Performing Artist Case Studies
For ICPP’s 2020 Summer Intensive, Harge presented FLY | DROWN: Process Revisted sharing insights into the creation of her performance installation around the ways in which Black women use their homes to reclaim and assert autonomy over their bodies, histories, and communities. In these excerpts, Harge recounts the process, shows footage of her work, and invites the curator of FLY | DROWN Taylor Renee Aldridge and longtime collaborator Miryam Johnson, to discuss pivotal concepts of the project.
FLY | DROWN is a dance folktale honoring Black women’s movement towards flight. Set in a post-Great Migration home in Detroit, MI, it is an interwoven story of two characters, elder and nyeusi, moving between the mundane, the majestic, fact, and fable. nyeusi, a Sankofa bird from the ocean (and perhaps elder's child from another lifetime) has been conjured into the home to teach elder how to find the flight in her flesh.
Towards the end of the first clip, Jennifer Harge, a tall Black femme, washes her feet inside a large metal basin. She wears white underwear and a headpiece with loops cascading down her face, encrusted in diamonds. Aretha Franklin's "Never Grow Old" envelops her. Her fingertips trace the distance of her leg as she moves to standing. Water droplets form beads on her skin. In a new scene, she’s in a living room dancing in front of a Television set. As the camera pans across the space, she appears like a spirit or ghost-figure channeling the memories and effects of this place. Her body dwells, moves, lives. There’s a quality of being home; her body is a kind of home. The wall by the mantel is painted in a deep red brick color, giving a somber and noble quality. She cleanses her face, drinking from a metal stockpot, in front of a wall of black-and-white framed portraits of Black women. In a new scene, she sleeps in a large living room chair. The light illuminates the top right corner of the frame. The wallpaper is composed of vertical stripes in white and creamsicle colors. Now, she is dancing in a long white nightgown. This time there’s an audience. She breathes, claws the air, pants and pauses. She rests in the wash basin, bathed in electric blue light. She emerges from the water and a Black femme adorns her with a pyramid-shaped crown covered in jewels. She sweeps the room. A poem about ancestors and ghosts washes over the space.(1)
Jennifer Harge is an interdisciplinary choreographer whose practice actualizes the somatics of thriving in black flesh, looking to the organizing and corporeal possibilities within Black liturgical and Black social dance forms. Harge’s work has been recognized by various organizations and institutions across the country in the form of fellowship, performance and residency invitations, including: Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Washington National Cathedral, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, University of Michigan, Duke University, and Wayne State University. She is the inaugural recipient of the 2019 Eva Yaa Asantewaa Grant for Queer Women(+) Dance Artists, as well as the 2019 Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists. Harge holds an MFA in Dance from University of Iowa as a Dean’s Graduate Fellow and a BFA in Dance from University of Michigan. External links: hargedancestories.com, Bomb magazine interview.