The Light Fantastical
Creative Capital Awardee, Makeda Thomas uses live performance, text, and installation in The Light Fantastical, an open series of artistic explorations of the metaphors for art and technology that come out of Afrofuturist culture - or more appropriately, “Caribbean Futurisms - which considers how Caribbean cultural forms navigate time and space, and innovate new histories, sciences and aesthetics. Each performance, each iteration of the work exists in multiple variations, with each variation being characterized by the improvisations of the performers. In this way, the work is imbued with its own autonomous power that engages a more present performer - a future performer - in moments of infinite imaginations and re-creation.
“I have questions about a future diasporic Caribbean culture; an Afrofuturist culture in which the body and how/why it moves is at the center. The body is how we experience our universe and as a dance artist, it’s particularly important to me that the body does not disappear among technology. I’m interested in those ancient and future technologies that open a way to not only imagine those parts of our selves that we may not remember, but that allows us to Unearth; to dance and move in a way that takes us to new states of what it means to be human.”
The Light Fantastical (2019)
Artistic Direction & Choreography Makeda Thomas
Performance Makeda Thomas and Dyane Harvey Salaam
Installation & Stage Design Makeda Thomas
Video Animation Tim Wetherell
Sound Design Keshav Singh
As with the future, "The Light Fantastical" is concerned with the past:
When fire destroyed my 100 year old Brooklyn home last year - and with it, not only the entire “analog” archive of my twenty year career in dance, but all of the research and documentation for my newest work...More than before, I realized embodied knowledges - not as ephemeral - but as the only true materiality. What is more tangible than a living, breathing body in movement? Paper, photographs, costumes, hard drives, handwritten notes, a collections, dv tapes, dvds - they all burn and to turn to ash. But in the lived, moving body, is all that is, ever was, and ever will be. My current focus is on this relationship between art practice and archival structures.
Thomas performs in a duet with the eponymous Dyane Harvey-Salaam. The Light Fantastical lives in a luminescent landscape concerned with archival performativities and the links between past knowledge and future imagination, offering a futurist reading of the past, and a historical reading of the future.
rekindling: powerful magic in a mysterious place (2017)
a project of “The Light Fantastical”
Performed by Makeda Thomas.
rekindling: powerful magic in a mysterious place is a solo structured improvisation that takes place among four ancestral wire figures, in a pool of light, and through a complete moon cycle.
Speech Sounds (2013)
a project of “The Light Fantastical”
Choreography by Makeda Thomas in collaboration with the Performers
Performers Catherine Dénécy, Candace Thompson, and Imani Nzingha
Original Music/Vocals by Grisha Coleman
Costume Design Makeda Thomas and Micah Blacklight
and featuring music by Cris Derksen
Lighting Design by Stephen Arnold
Three powerhouse performers engage a performative strategy that pushes its elements in, to, over and beyond themselves. "Speech Sounds" is a dance theatre work that calls on improvisation, dances of the Orishas, and Thomas’ “richly-honed” contemporary movement to ask, What does it mean to be a performer of the present? Of the future? "Speech Sounds" gets its title from Octavia’s Butler’s Hugo Award winning science fiction short story about a future world “where the only likely common language was body language”. Speech Sounds is about the spaces between selves; of how individuals connect and disconnect; of isolation and companionship; of what happens when we lose that which we value the most - be that a person, symbol, idea or name; and, of arriving at a loss of words.
Belmont Baby Dolls: Spirit Dolls (2020)
in collaboration with Brianna McCarthy
Trinidad Carnival, Port of Spain
with Makeda and Nyah Love Thomas, Lyndon Gill, Mari Pitkänen, Angelique Nixon, Arnaldo James, Jamie Philbert, Jade Drakes, Shay Alexander, Isabel Dennis, Cecile Pemberton and Eva Thomas, Patriann Edwards, Arielle John, and Kwayera Cunningham-Archer.
“Spirit Dolls” sets its foundation on the traditional elements of the Baby Doll Mas. Materials are a mix of African textiles, European lace, and fabrics commonly found in Caribbean homes - florals and cotton prints. In this way, we are interested in a “Caribbean” Doll, with all those respective cultural influences, and moving towards something that is unique; self-defined. And while the aesthetic is strong, this mas is less about what a Baby Doll looks like, and more about what Baby Doll mas can do. Spirit dolls act as vessels for beings of powerful spirits. In this performance, Carnival is the ritual to invoke the spirit of the Doll; to open a path to the impossible.
"When Dolls Dance" in "Black Dance: My Voice, My Practice".
SEE "Baby Doll Mas' Old & New Interpretations at “The Old Yard” at the University of the West Indies, Centre for Creative & Festival Arts
"Spirit Dolls" for Trinidad & Tobago Carnival, 2020. Photo by Abigail Hadeed.
Belmont Baby Dolls: Carnival Baby (2019)
in collaboration with Shannon Lewis
Trinidad & Tobago Carnival - Port of Spain
with Makeda and Nyah Love Thomas, Jade Drakes, Arnaldo James, Olubusola Chung, Shanya Springer, Sophie Bufton, Adeline Gregoire, Amanda McIntyre, Jarula Wegner, and Shannon Lewis.
“Carnival Baby” - eleven MASterful performers whose work “traces the roots of this Mas as one in which women assert control over their sexuality, their womanhood, their motherhood; to assert their “performative identities” against interpretations that would deny both their agency and their pleasure”. (Vaz-Deville). Belmont Baby Dolls extend this ethos throughout their lives and engage this embodied practice as a way to examine how gender and race have shaped and continue to shape this ritual, explore sexuality in the lives of Caribbean girls and transgressive sexuality performed publicly by women, and the way the tradition helps to revitalize spirits. We are the dolls, their mothers, their sisters, their aunts, their lovers...
Belmont Baby Dolls "Carnival Baby", 2019. Photo by Arnaldo James.
a tiny little thing (2019)
Mixed textiles, wood
15.5in x 174 in.
“a tiny little thing”, a project of The Light Fantastical, exhibited at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts in Boone, NC from June 7 through December 7, 2019. The exhibit, “With or Without”, curated by Cara Hagan engaged a long-distance collaborative practice and philosophy called, “Artistic Surrogacy", which seeks to create issues of institutional bias, financial constraints related to art making and distribution, issues of geographical and/or circumstantial isolation, environmental implications of artist travel, commonly-held notions of what constitutes “art,” and what a “successful” art career looks and feels like.
"A fire resulted in the loss of my family home and archives last year, and cleared the path for this work. The initial aim was to make a book - a tiny little thing - collaged with documents, recipes, drawings, quotes, bits and pieces, pockets of mythologies...A gift to my children - Shiloh and Nyah Love. In its place, is a 14’ length of cloth that survived the fire. It is composed of three pieces: a piece from my mother, a piece from my sister, and a wrap I wore during the home birth of my first child. Sewn hastily together just before the birth of my second child, the cloth is a traditional African tie used in pregnancy and during birth. Its great length and materiality is a meditation on motherhood and legacy; on surrogacy as an artistic practice."
Sighting Freedom (2012)
Site-Specific Project for The Ruins at Erie Canal Harbor
Choreography & Artistic Direction Makeda Thomas
Performed by Danny Soto, Candace Thompson, N’Jelle Gage and Chris Walker
with Storytelling by Karima Amin
Violin by Henri Muhammad
The powerful history of the Underground Railroad is woven through this site specific work.
+ READ "Notes on Sighting Freedom"
N'Jelle Gage in "Sighting Freedom". Photo by Guy Thorne.
Los Colores (2009)
Choreography by Makeda Thomas
Costume Design by Pei-Chi Su
Lighting by Makeda Thomas & Burke J. Wilmore
Text from “The Danger of A Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie
"Dancers position themselves along one or more narrow, rectangular swaths of light that span the space, suggesting the rollout of words across a page and the procession of characters across the flow of a well-told narrative. Like Adichie, [Thomas] seeks to open our eyes to a complex world and our ears to stories that we seldom hear. Her dancers—Catherine Dénécy, Catherine Foster, Orlando Z. Hunter, Jr., Imani Johnson, Daniel Soto, and Candace Thompson—serve her urgent, extroverted approach, their sculpted movements propelled under high pressure as if there’s nothing more important to do than to dance and be witnessed." - Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Dance Magazine
Choreography & Performance Makeda Thomas
Lighting Design & Technical Direction James Clotfelter
Sound Design Keshav Singh
Costume Design Robert Young/THE CLOTH
Vocals by Attillah Springer
Text from “The Whirlwind” by Delano Abdul Malik de Coteau
FreshWater takes its title from the Trinidadian term for someone who talks, dresses or acts American without having gone overseas (crossing salt water). The term also serves to remind someone who may have indeed gone overseas that they are still Caribbean. Created in the midst of returning home to Trinidad after 20 years living abroad, it is a deeply personal work set in the stage of a mystical, multilayered culture of compelling depth of breadth and scope. ‘Fresh Water’ is a dance between Memory and Reality. It is a work about family, legacy and continuity; tradition and heritage; about the agility and fragility of life and culture.
Costa del Alma (2008)
FILM - a project of “FreshWater”
Artistic Direction & Performance Makeda Thomas
Cinematography Panu Kari
Lighting Camal Gaiby
Featuring ”Om Mani Padme Hung” by Yungchen Lhamo
Ramgoolie Trace (2007)
FILM - a project of “FreshWater”
in collaboration with Elspeth Duncan
Vocals by Christiana George
- 5 minutes -
"Costa Del Alma", filmed in Costa do Sol, Maputo, Mozambique.
A Sense of Place (2005)
World Premiere - December 2005, Teatro Africa, Maputo, Mozambique
Choreography and Video Makeda Thomas
Premiere Performance by Companhia Nacional de Canto e Dança de Moçambique
Music Ron Wood/Zen One
Costumes Makeda Thomas & Ada Jiron
Lighting Design Makeda Thomas
A Sense of Place is an interdisciplinary dance work anchored by a series of conversations with 40 women living with HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. Dance, video and sound meet in a multimedia performance landscape based on the conversations.
A Sense of Place was commissioned in 2005 by Companhia Nacional De Canto e Danca and in 2007 by 651 ARTS Black Dance: Tradition & Transformation, in cooperation with the United States Embassy in Maputo, Office of Public Affairs, KUYAKANA, and The Foundation for Community Development, with additional support from the Bossak-Heilbron Charitable Foundation and The Puffin Foundation. Graça Machel (Former First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa) is the Honorary Patron.
Subtle Changes/The Talented (2003)
Choreography Makeda Thomas
Original Music Philip Hamilton
Costumes Ada Jiron
"All that you touch, you change". A collaboration with Bessie award-winning composer and musician, Philip Hamilton. With text from “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler.
"A Sense of Place" at Aaron Davis Hall, NYC.