Black Performance Theory

Black Performance Theory

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 22 photographs Published: May 2014

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Theater and Performance > Dance

Black performance theory is a rich interdisciplinary area of study and critical method. This collection of new essays by some of its pioneering thinkers—many of whom are performers—demonstrates the breadth, depth, innovation, and critical value of black performance theory. Considering how blackness is imagined in and through performance, the contributors address topics including flight as a persistent theme in African American aesthetics, the circulation of minstrel tropes in Liverpool and in Afro-Mexican settlements in Oaxaca, and the reach of hip-hop politics as people around the world embrace the music and dance. They examine the work of contemporary choreographers Ronald K. Brown and Reggie Wilson, the ways that African American playwrights translated the theatricality of lynching to the stage, the ecstatic music of Little Richard, and Michael Jackson's performance in the documentary This Is It. The collection includes several essays that exemplify the performative capacity of writing, as well as discussion of a project that re-creates seminal hip-hop album covers through tableaux vivants. Whether deliberating on the tragic mulatta, the trickster figure Anansi, or the sonic futurism of Nina Simone and Adrienne Kennedy, the essays in this collection signal the vast untapped critical and creative resources of black performance theory.

Contributors. Melissa Blanco Borelli, Daphne A. Brooks, Soyica Diggs Colbert, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Nadine George-Graves, Anita Gonzalez, Rickerby Hinds, Jason King, D. Soyini Madison, Koritha Mitchell, Tavia Nyong'o, Carl Paris, Anna B. Scott, Wendy S. Walters, Hershini Bhana Young


“With this compelling volume, DeFrantz and Gonzalez provide less a settled corpus of methodologies applied to a canon of academically sanctioned performance genres than an articulation and elaboration of black corporealities, vocalities, and ‘sensibilities’ across a heterogeneous field of performative enunciations--’high’ and pop culture, geographically dispersed and diasporic. . . .  This promises to become a key work. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.” — R. Remshardt, Choice

"This is theory that dances. [...] Black Performance Theory convenes 14 scholars and practitioners of Africana performance and bids them dance and groove across national, hemispheric, oceanic, planetary, disciplinary, epochal, formal, and methodological boundaries in pursuit of blackness in motion." — La Marr Jurelle Bruce, TDR: The Drama Review

"This crucially important critical volume highlights the collaborative work of the Black Performance Theory Group, emphasizing the significance of black bodies in motion. A moving work!"
— Jennifer DeVere Brody, author of Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play

"[Black Performance Theory] is a palimpsest of black performance histories, practices, affects, and ideologies. . . . Exceeding iterations of ready-made blackness and overcooked theories of performance, this volume honors the charge to theorize outside the expected and to say something new."
— D. Soyini Madison, author of Acts of Activism: Human Rights as Radical Performance, from the foreword

"I do not know of any other anthology that examines black performance as theory and method, and does so across multiple disciplines and performance genres. Black Performance Theory brings together contributions from important scholars whose work is vital to the ongoing conversation about black performance. It is a must-read for those seeking to understand race through the analytic of performance."
  — E. Patrick Johnson, author of Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thomas F. DeFrantz is Professor of African and African American Studies, Dance, and Theater Studies at Duke University. He is a dancer, a choreographer, and the author of Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture.

Anita Gonzalez is Professor of Theater at the University of Michigan. She is a director, a choreographer, and the author of Afro-Mexico: Dancing between Myth and Reality.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / D. Soyini Madison


Introduction. From "Negro Experiment" to "Black Performance" / Thomas F. DeFrantz and Anita Gonzalez

Part I: Transporting Black

1. Navigations: Diasporic Transports and Landings / Anita Gonzalez

2. Diasporic Spidering: Constructing Contemporary Black Identities / Nadine George-Graves

3. Twenty-First-Century Post-Humans: The Rose of the See-J / Hershini Bhana Young

4. Hip Work: Undoing the Tragic Mulata / Melissa Blanco Borelli

Part II: Black-En-Scène

5. Black-Authored Lynching Drama's Challenge to Theater History / Koritha Mitchell

6. Reading "Spirit" and the Dancing Body in the Choreography of Ronald K. Brown and Reggie Wilson / Carl Paris

7. Uncovered: A Pageant of Hip Hop Masters / Rickerby Hinds

Part III: Black Imaginary

8. Black Movements: Flying Africans in Spaceships / Soyica Diggs Colbert

9. Post-logical Notes on Self-Election / Wendy S. Walters

10: Cityscaped: Ethnospheres / Anna B. Scott

Part IV: Hi-Fidelity Black

11. "Rip It Up": Excess and Ecstasy in Little Richard's Sound / Tavia Nyong'o

12. Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough: Presence, Spectacle, and Good Feeling in Michael Jackson's This Is It / Jason King

13. Afro-sonic Feminist Praxis: Nina Simone and Adrienne Kennedy in High Fidelity / Daphne A. Brooks

14. Hip-Hop Habitus V.2.0 / Thomas F. DeFrantz



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5616-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5607-3
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