Free admission (all visitors, all hours)
Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MoBBallet), the groundbreaking project documenting and transforming conversations around Black ballet artists, announces its launch of “The Constellation Project: Mapping the Dark Stars of Ballet.” The project maps the points at which the lives and careers of dancers Arthur Mitchell, Mel Tomlinson, Lavinia Williams, Mabel Jones Freeman, Doris Jones, and Claire Haywood intersected with each other, and other artists, institutions, and white allies contemporary to them. The immersive interactive exhibit, designed by MoBBallet’s Digital Art Director Natasha Hulme, will go live on February 1 on MoBBallet.org in honor of Black history month. Additionally, the company will host “Check-in and Checkup,” a FREE virtual town hall gathering on February 20 from 12-2 pm for The Village–members of the MoBBallet and larger community.
The Constellation Project places key Black ballet dancers within a digitally rendered galaxy where visitors can explore each star’s “orbit” and learn about the intersections and experiences that shaped the dancer’s career. The project is the third exhibit housed in MoBBallet’s digital archives, which include the company’s Knight Foundation-funded exhibit And Still They Rose: The Legacy of Black Philadelphians in Ballet, and Dancing Diversity: Celebrating the Black Ballet Artists of the Dutch National Ballet, which was created in partnership with the Dutch National Ballet and highlights the numerous Black dancers who danced with the company throughout its nearly 60-year history. Preview the Constellation Project here.
The Constellation Project is MoBBallet’s most recent initiative that brings to light the impact that Black people have had on the development of ballet. The company’s founder–former dancer, writer, and diversity strategist, Theresa Ruth Howard–says of the company’s newest exhibit:
“What is currently being taught as history, within the dance world and at large, is a narrative that centers white maleness and marginalizes the contributions of people of color. When Black dancers’ contributions are taught, it is done out of context and as set apart. This pedagogical approach is problematic because it does not provide a proper perspective on how life was lived and omits the legacy of oppression and exclusion, which resulted in so few Black dancers reaching their full potential. It also does not reflect the organic intersections that resulted in the cross-pollination of ideas and influence. We might not have the NeoClassical ballet aesthetic had George Balanchine not been so enamored with Blackness.”
The Constellation Project was created in partnership with Williams College when Howard was invited to co-teach a course with the school’s Artist in Residence, Janine Parker. The project includes research conducted by students of the Williams College Dance Department. The partnership allowed Howard to develop the project and examine the effects that teaching intersectionality had on students’ perceptions of Black artists’ contributions. Howard intends to partner with other colleges and institutions to continue to expand the project’s Universe. Among the key themes that the project plans to explore are the influence of Historical Black Colleges and Universities, Greek letter organizations, and Black society and community on the history of dance. This way, it serves to humanize their subjects and show that Black artists’ black lives matter. “This goes beyond just Blacks in ballet; I see this as a truly anthropological study in black life through the lens of art,” says Howard.