Lila Ann Millberry Dodge

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Illinois, Urbana, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10107

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Dodge, Lila Ann (Illinois, Urbana, U. of) "Embodiment, communication, and work: women reorienting the art of contemporary dance in West Africa"

This project tracks the interventions that women artists of West Africa are making in the professional field of contemporary dance through the content and addressivity of their performative ‘messages,’ and through the re-organization they compel in the professional field itself. As a genre, contemporary dance in West Africa has been funded especially by French state and non-profit agencies, rendering the creative work of African artists a commodity for consumption by audiences in white European institutions of ‘high culture.’ This asymmetrical circulation of contemporary dance works and artists between West Africa and Western Europe reveals a political economy of culture founded in the enduring logic of racial capitalism. The gendered and intersectional dimensions of this economy impede sustainable careers for West Africa women. However, many voice commitment to West African audiences and social issues, framing their performances as critical expressive and communicative work. I propose to collaborate with a network of women who are teaching and hosting festivals across West Africa to increase professional opportunities for women in dance, and build local audiences and investment in their work, asking: How are women resignifying contemporary dance performances to make new economic and cultural spaces for gendered expressions and labor in West Africa?