Geography: Art, Race, Exile

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Wesleyan University Press, 2000 - Performing Arts - 202 pages
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Geography, a rich tapestry of journal entries, choreographic scores, drawings, and photographs, leads us through the creation of an evening-long dance, "Geography," a collaboration about being American, African, brown, black, blue black, male, and artist. This dance piece was a major departure for Ralph Lemon. In it everything is at stake -- his identity, his politics, his art, his very way of moving. In order to create it, he traveled to Africa in search of dancers and a new relationship to the stage.

The intimate, keenly observed passages in this artist's journal give us extraordinary insights on the process of dance-making -- from the discovery of specific movements to the sometimes uneasy relationships between the dancers. Aeschylus' Oresteia forms the subtext of the dance: Lemon subtly portrays the exiled son of his mother Africa. Dancing is his crime, a stoning his trial, and an ancestral chorus his threshold to the future. At every juncture the collaboration posed difficult questions about representing African dance and culture within the context of modern America's post-slave heritage. The book beautifully documents Lemon's ability to negotiate different dance traditions without either erasing or cementing them.

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About the author (2000)

RALPH LEMON formed the Ralph Lemon Company in 1985, which for ten years performed as a touring dance ensemble, receiving numerous residencies, commissions, and grants as well as critical and popular acclaim. In 1995, he disbanded it and rededicated his organization, Cross Performance Inc., to creating new forms of performance and presentation. Lemon collaborated with photographer Philip Trager on the dance book Persephone (1996). He is currently working on the Geography Trilogy, three full-evening performance works created over a seven-year span that investigate an apparent collision of cultures and a search for personal and artistic identity within the broader world arena.

ANN DALY is Associate Professor of Dance History and Criticism at University of Texas at Austin

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