Black Performance Theory
Book: Black Performance Theory
Edited by: Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez
Published by: Duke University Press, 2014
‘Black Performance Theory’, co-edited by dance practitioners and scholars, DeFrantz and Gonzalez, helps decipher the imperatives of blackness. The volume, consisting of 14 chapters by practitioners, ethnographers and scholars on black performance is a palimpsest of African American aesthetics, performance histories, practices, affects, and ideologies.
Preceded by Soyini Madison’s field-appraising Foreword, the book is divided into four thematic sections. The introduction lays out the objective of the book—“to establish black expressive culture as an area of serious academic enquiry”(p.1). The first part, ‘Transporting Black’ consists of essays by Gonzalez, Young and Borelli, which theorises black diaspora through transnational, transhistorical, post-human and intergalactic performances. George-Graves introduces the concept of “diasporic spidering” as a way to understand contemporary black identities. (p.33) The second part, ‘Black-En-Scene’, discusses the formally staged performance events—theatre, concerts, dance and tableau. In one of the chapters in the section, Koritha Mitchel talks about the black author’s writings on lynching and violence — “lynching drama survives in the archive as not only a record preserving truths…but also as a challenge to American theater history more generally” (p.91). The third part ‘Black Imaginary’ studies the metaphorical space in which Colbert discovers the Flying Africans tale—spaces of possibility in science fiction flying, or walking through devastated urban territories.The fourth part, ‘Hi-Fidelity Black’, theorises the relationship between dance, sound and embodiment. In the section, Daphne Brook hears Nina Simone’s song ‘Four Women’ differently; DeFrantz explores the slippage from Africanist performance histories to global hip-hop corporealities.
“Black performance theory offers up something beyond what we already know, because it is an ethics that does not stand in iterations but intellectually thrives in thick performatives of kinesis and invention” (p.ix).