Vanessa R. Owens, executive artistic director and cofounder of the Kenyetta Dance Company, took a few minutes to speak with us about the upcoming ten year anniversary show based on the Black Lives Matter movement. The company has previously covered issues like homelessness and gender violence.
NUVO: You have taken on such weighty social justice issues with each performance over the years. What made you decide to utilize dance as a platform for this kind of discourse?
Vanessa Owens: Dance is a universal language. Therefore, it is the perfect platform used to provoke thought and start conversation about our current issues. Change starts with discussing the problem and then creating a solution.
NUVO: The Black Lives Matter movement has so much momentum and means so much to our time. What kind of responses have you heard from spectators and the dancers?
Owens: The dancers have responded, artistically, with passion and true emotion. This realness has spectators on the edge of their seats and ready to begin a serious dialogue about the racial issues.
NUVO: What made you decide to tackle this topic now?
Owens: Black Dance Matters is the name of the production. It seemed like an appropriate title for the concepts and message we are conveying throughout the work. Although it acts as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, it also speaks to the state of Black dance, it's relevance to today, and the lack of funding and support to keep the art form alive.
NUVO: How will the choreography reflect the ideals, that you feel, are most critical to Black Lives Matter?
Owens: Black Dance Matters tackles one of the greatest racial issues of our time. The choreography is powerful and the intent is evident. The beauty is watching each dancer commit to the work; physically and emotionally expressing his/her opinion of the subject matter.
NUVO: Over the past ten years what has been the most surprising part of your time as director?
Owens: The thing that surprises me is most is when people stop me and ask "when is the next Kenyett?' performance?" It's actually a huge compliment.
Black Dance Matters
When: Sept. 4-5, 8 p.m., Reception Sept. 5
Where: The Toby in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road
Tickets: $20 adults, $10 children