Embodied practice 

Okwui OkpokwasiliOkwui Okpokwasili considers herself a "performance maker" rather than a dancer. Her work combines dance, music and spoken word, and will be the subject of a conversation on March 6 and a master class on March 7. 

By Samantha Neville '19

Okwui Okpokwasili, recipient of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012, 2016) and an artist-in-residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (2013), doesn’t consider herself a dancer.

 “I consider myself a movement maker, a performance maker,” Okpokwasili said.

Okpokwasili also said she does, however, have a profound respect for dance and dancers. To that end, she will offer The Performing Body, a lecture, 6 p.m. March 6, and Embodied Practice, a master class 7 p.m. March 7 at the Harvard Dance Center. As a testament to Okpokwasili's multidisciplinary approach, the class is, says Harvard Dance Program, which is co-sponsoring the two-day residency with the Theater, Dance & Media division, open to "writers, performers, dancers, musicians, object art makers, art lovers and all curious and committed people."

Okwui Okpokwasili
Okwui Okpokwasili in a scene from her work "Poor People's TV Room" PHOTO: mancc.org
“My particular embodied practice comes from working with text and allowing text to be a generative engine for the development of a movement vocabulary,” Okpokwasili said, whose work is influenced by theater training.

“When I was in school at first I think I had a very clear idea of what theater was, what dance was, what a composition was, what a song was. You know, I had a clear idea of what my relationship should be to these events,” Okpokwasili said. “And somehow that got upended, and I’m really glad.”

When asked about her definition of success, she said she tried not to think about it, and that it wasn’t very useful for her to think in those terms. She focuses instead on sustaining her artistic practice.

“I need to achieve, to manage to not have to do anything but make my work and be able to live in a community of people who inspire me,” Okpokwasili said.

For the master class, she hopes participants come “with an open and a free spirit, a sense of play, and an investigation and a commitment to that sense of play, and again a willingness to not know and not understand, to jump into it.”

Watch a video about the origins and "embodied stories" of Okpokwasili's project Poor People's TV Room
Watch Okpokwasili perform Bronx Gothic