Simone Sobers on Giving Form to Women of Color Through Dance
On Friday, June 15, the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery will be hosting the Miami debut of Simone Sobers Dance and their newest work, Rogue. Company director Sobers, who trained here in Miami and is now based in New York, describes the 45-minute installation piece as an exploration of the "wild, rebellious, and sensual" natures of being a woman, and of the tension created in this study. Sobers and company members Epiphany Davis and Titilayo Derricotte perform the work set to a musical score by Steve Reich, Alva Noto, Byetone, AIR, and Kangding Ray.
For her part, gallery founder Bernice Steinbaum, who will be closing the gallery for good come July, is known for her pioneering efforts that have supported women artists, artists of color, and mid-career artists. The gallery's focus echoes that of Simone Sobers'. Sobers' own eclectic and international background informs the company's mission to present work globally and increase the visibility of minority women. We asked Sobers to expound on the mission and vision of her company.
Cultist: How much of your own experience motivates you to make women visible on a global scale?
my training and travels, I have noticed a lack of representation of
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women of color in the dance world as performers, choreographers, or in
positions of power, such as artistic directors, producers, curators. I
have also discovered a trend in women of color being downplayed or
excused from these roles because of our physique and or inability to
"blend in" with the rest of the cast, corps de ballet, or ensembles.
Ironically, this form of artistic racism is exclusive to dance
[creators] and not the audience of dance enthusiasts. I have found from
my experiences of traveling abroad with my company that people are
grateful, moved by, and relieved to see three strong black women on
stage moving boldly and gracefully in their bodies.
performed in the States and parts of Europe. Would you like to see the
company perform in Asia, Africa, or even the Middle East? How do you
think certain cultures in those continents, where maybe our Western
sense of women's equality are still a challenge, might receive your
I would love for the company to share our work in all parts
of the world, including Asia, Africa, and the Middle East where there
are very strong stereotypes about women of color as well as very
different values placed on women's role in society. In these settings I
think my work could be viewed as shocking, intriguing, and provocative.
My work tends to leave the audience curious about my intention and
Pioneering companies like Alvin Ailey, Harlem
Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Hispanico created a visibility and gave a
voice to people of color in classical and modern dance forms where once
they were invisible or non-existent. Now decades later, even with all
the evolution in social, political, and artistic arenas, why is it still
important to give voice to women's stories and specifically to give
visibility to women of color? What are the stories you feel are still
being ignored and need to be heard and seen?
Women of color have
their own unique set of challenges based on the fact that we are a part
of two minority groups that both have a long history of discrimination
and oppression. Fast forward into present day, although we have come a
long way, most of those issues are still present in how women of color
are presented in the media, our status in the workplace, and most
importantly in the development of our relationships with each other.
Although opportunities have and are being created to be visible on a
stage, I think there needs to be opportunities for women of color to
share who they really are, how their past has an effect on their present
spirit, and what it means to be a woman of color today. We are not just
that one idea that is presented in the media, but a combination of
many things that together makes up something eccentrically beautiful.
Your company's focus is on sharing "eclectic, transformative,
vulnerable, and celebratory stories of women through the art of
dance." The word "vulnerable" can imply leaving oneself exposed or
susceptible to harm, but its more positive attribute opens one to taking
risks and chances leading to deeper feeling, experience, and growth.
What does this word mean to you and how does it translate into the
stories you tell?
True and raw beauty lies in being vulnerable.
Vulnerability allows someone else to have access to every part of you --
virtues, vices, and habits -- the complete composition of who you are.
This is where real sharing takes place and what people can grasp and
relate to. In my work I aim to tap into this vulnerability in both my
dancers and the audience. A story is an honest recollection and I hope
in my work my honesty is at the forefront.
Simone Sobers Dance's
Miami debut of 'Rogue' will be performed at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery on
Friday at 7:00 p.m, 3550 North Miami Ave., Miami; a $10 donation is
suggested at admission.
--Miguel Angel Estefan, Jr, artburstmiami.com
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