THE STORIES WE TELL
ABOUT THE PROJECT
"Crossroads" is a multi-layered landscape narrative that explores the textures and tensions of one of America's most iconic and contested sites, the plantation. Facilitated in collaboration with Louisiana artists, residents, storytellers, and dancing historians, the project reimagines history and history-telling through the words and movements of many and asks what is at stake as we move ahead. Provocatively current, while hearkening back the roots of who we have become as a nation, Crossroads seeks a path forward. It's about a place, a symbol, and the seed of modern culture.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
Participants engaged in the site as investigators, performers, storytellers and arbiters of actions and ideas and have contributed to the work through his/her own movement vocabulary and/or with his/her own words. By decentralizing the narratives around history, we seek to develop a richer, more empowered narrative structure. Workshops included a combination of improvisational exercises, choreography, and writing. Participant feedback has been essential in guiding the process. The culminating film elicits an embodied cultural and collective memory from present-day perspectives and represents a shifting perspective/aesthetic in how we view the historical site.
The workshop phase of The Stories We Tell took place after an investigation into the evolving narrative landscape around Louisiana plantations, including prolonged site visits, tours, archives, literature, interviews conducted with historians, tour guides, visitors, and local community members and descendants. The movement workshops were also a key element of the research and will help to addresses some of the challenges of history telling by placing the work within a larger context of communal storytelling; all with a focus on shifting the center and setting forth a method for future investigation into social, cultural and evolutionary landscapes.
"When I first heard 'plantation' I got real defensive." (Participant)
During the process of Crossroads many participants chose to create their own narratives. Here you will find a growing collection of thoughts, stories, and reflections on the plantation site, its history, and it's significance. These narratives were created through direct contact with the site and come in many forms.
"The potential for therapy, for change, therefore, lies in the capacity to exhume such "fixated" material into the present so that it can be subjected to the creative process of retranscription, allowing the stalled individual to grow and change once again".
IF YOU COULD WRITE HISTORY, HOW WOULD YOU TELL THE STORY?
This is the story of a plantation. It's yours. How does it go? You are invited to be a part of a communal storytelling of many voices. Is your story a personal one, historical, conceptual, emotional, surprising? This is your chance to write (or rewrite) history!
The stories developed here will be used to compile a "landscape narrative".
The Crossroads project has been an evolving and collaborative journey. Each step has been informed by numerous participants, local community members, historians and professionals. As the film continues to develop, so too will the creative team.
Anji Crain, a Louisiana native, is a choreographer/filmmaker, director of A+ Productions, and producer of the International New Dance Cinema Festival. She has created over 25 dance films with professional dancers and students and has worked with top-tier performers from the likes of New York City Ballet, Parsons Dance, Philadanco, Ballet Hispanico, Broadway, So You Think You Can Dance, Freestyle B-boys/girls and more. Her works have been featured live and in film festivals around the globe and she has been honored to present, perform and speak at festivals including the International Women in Arts Festival in Kendal, England and the Inaugural Women in Dance Leadership Festival in Baton Rouge Louisiana. As a dancer, Anji has toured internationally with Decadancetheatre, Kinematik Dance and various independent artists and has had the opportunity to perform in such esteemed venues as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Citi Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Southbank Center in London among others. Commercially, she has choreographed for such names as Macy’s, Nike, Kit Kat, State Farm, Reebok, the BBC, Red Hot Music, Sony music artists and more. As a teacher and veteran arts educator, Anji has spent 8 years on staff at Peridance Center in NYC and works extensively in public education including with NYC Public schools and various initiatives such as Community Word Project and Erasmus European partnerships for inclusive intercultural exchange (Germany, Poland and Greece). Currently, Anji is completing her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London - building upon her BA in Dance/Sociology from New York University.
For over 15 years Anji has been working within the industry of hip hop dance on the professional, academic and community arts levels. Embedded in her work has been a commitment to honoring hip hop's foundations as well as the inherent potential for encouraging personal expression and empowerment. Her growth in this field has included years of professional development in community settings and engagement with workshops and panels discussions on culture, race, appropriation, whiteness and the application and evolution of the art form. Her work has been inclusive of all demographics, ages, abilities and gratefully, within an array of national and international contexts and locations.
As a Louisiana native, I have always understood that the mixing of cultures here was unique, powerful and troublesome at the same time and have always felt indebted to those who have shaped this land.
It is my understanding, after my research, that narratives - both the ones that we receive and the ones that we create - are powerful agents of our evolution. With all of the feedback I have been receiving, it has become clear to me that new, more empowering narratives are greatly desired I also recognize that this is a sensitive context. My goal in this project is to address this in whatever small way we can by creating a strong visual statement that challenges static images, and by providing a space for people to contribute new narratives around one specific site in the effort to highlight anything of value that perhaps has not gotten enough attention in history books. I recognize that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to do this and that this is very much a collaborative effort. I greatly appreciate everyone's time, energy, and guidance.