Awardee: Amara Tabor-Smith

Performing Arts, 2016

Amara Tabor-Smith describes her work as Afro futurist Conjure Art. Her creative process as a dance maker is rooted in collaboration, spiritual ritual, and questions of identity and belonging. Her movement vocabulary is inspired by improvisation, Butoh and African Diaspora dance traditions, specifically drawing from movements of the Orishas found in Afro Cuban and Afro Brazilian folkloric dance. In 2006—with the goal of inspiring dialogue—she founded Deep Waters Dance Theater, a company that focuses on social- and environmental-justice issues, race, gender, cultural identity and spirituality. In 2009, she co-founded Headmistress with Sherwood Chen, creating intimate movement histories with enduring questions around ancestral, national and transcultural connections. The work of DWDT and Headmistress has been presented in venues throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, nationally and internationally. She has worked with artists such as Ed Mock, Joanna Haigood, Anna Deveare Smith, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Faustin Linyekula, Liz Lerman, Adia Tamar Whitaker and Ronald K. Brown, as well as with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar as a former associate artistic director and dancer with Urban Bush Women for 10 years.

Project: HouseFull

HouseFull is a site-specific dance-theater piece addressing issues facing women of color in Oakland, CA. Over the course of an 18-month creation process, the artistic team will gather stories and information to create a series of short episodes. The episodes, performed in various public sites throughout Oakland, will shed light on both the troubling issues of sex trafficking and the rampant displacement of long-time residents. These short episodes will inform the final evening-length performance inside a house in Oakland. The house, in this case, serves as a literal and metaphorical site for the complex realities that women experience in a patriarchal society; their stories—like many rooms in a home—continue to be unseen or hidden from view. Weaving together dance, music, visual art, spiritual rituals and personal narratives, HouseFull asks, what happens when we lose our mothers’ homes?