Artist: Suchi Branfman
Description: In 2016, choreographer and educator, Suchi Branfman, began a five-year choreographic residency inside the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security state men’s prison in Norco, California. The project, dubbed Dancing Through Prison Walls, developed into a critical dialogue about freedom, confinement, and how we survive restriction, limitations, and denial of liberty through the act of dancing. The project abruptly ended in March 2020, when the California state prison system shut down programming and visitation due to Covid-19. The work was rapidly revised, and the incarcerated dancers began sending out written choreographies from their bunks to the outside world. The resulting collection of deeply imagined choreographic pieces, written between March and May of 2020, was dubbed Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic. With artistic direction by Suchi Branfman and cinematography by Tom Tsai, the dances are powerfully narrated by Marc Antoni Charcas, Ernst Fenelon Jr., Richie Martinez and Romarilyn Ralston (formerly incarcerated movers and organizers) and choreographically interpreted by a group of brilliant choreographers: Bernard Brown, Jay Carlon, Irvin Gonzalez, Kenji Igus, Brianna Mims and Tom Tsai (all of whom have joined Branfman dancing inside the Norco prison). Each team was entrusted with bringing one of the written dances to action. Between them, they are steeped in hip hop, tap, breaking, performance art, quebradita, spoken word, Bhutto and contemporary dance forms. Released from prison during the summer of 2020, Richie Martinez joins the cast as he narrates and performs in Richie’s Disappearing Acts which he wrote while incarcerated at the Norco prison during the pandemic. The virtual event included a film of the written work transformed into embodied dances in sites throughout the Santa Monica civic center area, drawing focus to the nation’s school to prison nexus (Meiners, 2007), followed by a conversation with the eleven artists involved.
Host: Produced by 18th Street Arts Center
Dates on View:4/16/2021, 6:30 – 8pm