Somatic Liberation Dance Waves
- Keita Whitten
somatic abolitionist dance document, 7 minutes and 7 seconds, 2021.
Current research proves that movement, dance, and music have a measurable impact on the nervous system and its ability to rewire itself…Toni Bergins- Journey Dance
I have worked over the past 20 years with the effects of White supremacy, intergenerational trauma, and racialized adversities on brown and black bodies living in Maine by developing practices of embodied efficacy to help people heal. As such, I’d like to start this proposal with a different question. What does abolition feel like in your body?
Since the universal lock due to COVID- 19 and the world’s ability to witness firsthand Gorge Floyd’s death by police, I have been asking myself this very question.
And then I began to envision creating somatic abolitionist dance waves as a vehicle to discharge the violence, trauma, rage, grief or racism, and to cultivate spaciousness and resiliency within the body as embodied healing.
These somatic dance waves would begin with a prompt to explore/notice how we hold on to the violence of white supremacy within our souls and bodies. I would design the waves with specifically selected themes or melodies to create somatic elicitations. The waves would serve as a vehicle to help people discharge or explore mixed emotions ranging from expansion, constriction, joy, fear, grief, generational overwhelm, violence, resiliency, compassion fatigue, or rage.
At 56, finally, I can claim my space in my life and identity as an artist and writer. My art and the creative process had always been something I just had to squeeze in between life- raising children as a single parent (alone in Maine), homeless, on welfare, obtaining my education, working, healing, and learning how to build a practice. At first, I was more than overwhelmed- I was intimidated. I just started while others had been at it perfecting their art for decades. Perhaps the truth is I am art – I am the subject, who is worthy of exploration, who can weave the red threads together of experiential events called “my life” into meaning, substance, and texture.
Performance art began for me in New York City in the 1980s, in lower Manhattan. I discovered the Lower East Side and Danceteria, shaved my head, sported a Mohawk, dyed my hair, and never looked back. I was the only Black girl I knew who didn’t mind rocking an intentional bald spot. I had begun to experiment with false boundaries about race, creativity, and identity in the underground punk scene, and didn’t even know it.
I ate, drank, lived the scenes like Limelight, Save the Robot, The Garage, CBGBs, and the Cat Club. Home was the Bohemian artist commune of Williamsburg Brooklyn. I began to perform with flash-mobs and the Fly Trap dance troop- while helping to organize underground Raves -like the infamous Mustard Seed Factor). Later on, I worked at Gowanus Arts Exchange as a stage manager. Performance art helped me tapped into my raw talents and passions for curiosity while providing freedom of expression
During the year of the Million Man March, I moved my family to Maine in search of an environment that had the potential to offer my boys a choice to explore their identity formation outside the epidemic of crack and gangs. After arriving in Friendship Maine -from Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn New York- 22 years ago, I now call Maine my home of choice.
Today I am an artist, writer, a Kripalu Yoga certified instructor, a graduate of Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, and a somatic abolitionist. I am an alumna of the University of Southern Maine where I received both my BSW and MSW in social work and graduated with honors – while attending school as a Parents as Scholar recipient. I am the founder of The Harriet Tubman Movement Coalition, creator, the term “Chilaxe “and producer of the Mama Africa Show: WMPG community radio, Redefining Therapy LLC, Ready, Set, THrive! LLC, Community Dialogues on Racism as a Public Health Crisis amid COVID-19 and was a Portland Ecstatic Dance DJ. More at www.keitaawhitten.com.