The rift Stuart Hall
Poetry Literature is Visceral
Re-focus: the readjustment which follows disorientation and confusion—an attempt to reestablish the parameters either to a former or new state of order.
Mend: a wound, a rift, a relationship between two severed pieces of a whole.
Rewind: restore to a former state.
It has been some time since I’ve written a research post, but I think I am realizing why. I keep getting
The first idea I had to write was a reaction to Abraham in Motion’s Dearest Home, a piece choreographed by Kyle Abraham. That was in June.
After that, I was invigorated by some lectures on hip-hop that I received, including one from UVa’s new hip-hop professor, A.D. Carson.
Then there was the guest lecture by Dr. Cornel West,
the seemingly endless applications to graduate programs,
and then, of course, my latest readings for my thesis: In the Break by Fred Moten, Scenes of Subjection by Saidiya Hartman, and Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.
I just haven’t been able to catch a
But I’ve recently come full circle, back to the dance, or more precisely, what I saw in the dance that stuck with me for months:
Abraham’s Dearest Home is an exploration in loving, longing, and loss. The intercultural duets and “episodes,” if you will, draw the viewer to witness the vulnerability of love and loss. Whether it is the lighting that projects a spectre of a loved one recently deceased or the rupture from the embrace of a companion, the audience undergoes repeated experiences of separation.
At least I think that was going on—I don’t really know.
It’s something I’m learning to deal with, not knowing
feeling, like I should know
based on the two or three books I’ve read about dance or black culture or
The audience is invited to observe HOME with or without an accompanying score. The dancers have never heard the music, so I chose to watch the piece without the aural partner as well. And one moment stuck with me, particularly:
Lights dimmed warm coffee skin over
tight deltoids. Muted expectation tugs at the hem
of grey Calvin Kleins until they lie limp
on the ground. The body is beautiful
in communion with the shadows hanging
like drapes waiting to be revealed to the sun.
And he danced, a powerful manifesto interrupted by intermittent retching in his moment of vulnerability. What was it about the solitude of the shadows that revealed the rift in his movement?
Black cultural scholar, Stuart Hall, writes in his chapter on cultural identity and diaspora that the rupture of the diaspora, including the middle passage, is a defining characteristic that arrives in black culture. That is rupture is inscribed within black bodies, recognized in their performance.
Fred Moten explores in depth the concept of “the cut” in images, referring to the aurality of blackness in the photograph that captures Emmett Till’s funeral. The cut, the break, interrupts—it disturbs—it disorients—it defies—
it is the scream embodied that unsettles, for it is not sound—but it is heard clearly.
This was the cut that I saw in HOME, the break of the diaspora, the doubling of memory and performance, the performance that refuses to perform.
In one of the hip-hop lectures, we talked about a legacy of fugitivity that appears in the cut. It is the resistance that is masked—the appearance of one thing while the performance of the other, inaccessible on the surface to those unequipped to understand.
Requiring a password.
and giving a false one—
invalid surname: x
Hip-hop embodies the break by employing endless samples that signify, flow that is multimetered, with opportunities for improvisation. I think I’m starting to understand jazz. In this way, hip-hop allows fugitivity a landscape to build. Artists communicate across space and time in coded language that is constantly evolving, yet specific to geographic context.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Kyle Abraham began his training as a hip-hop dancer.
Read from a diasporic lens, “Dearest Home” takes on a different meaning. As Hall explains, diaspora creates a mythical homeland, one that is known but unknown, distant but intimate. Reading diaspora changes the semiotics of the dance, the music, and the literature of black traditions. The pause, the break becomes the moment rather than the margins.
There are days
when I see life
as 8 ½ by eleven
with 1 inch margins—
the space that stays