Wideman-Davis Dance duo Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis, associate professors in the African American Studies Program have been awarded a near two-million-dollar grant from the Mellon Foundation to expand Migratuse Ataraxia into a much broader initiative. The generous grant will allow Wideman Davis Dance to expand upon the Migratuse model launched three years ago, with three, six-month residencies in cities across the South that involve local communities and engage live audiences in intimate antebellum histories told through dance.”
This expansion is made possible through the Mellon Foundation’s “Monuments Projects.” Beyond Stone and Bronze: The Next Chapter of Monuments in America | Mellon Foundation.
Wideman-Davis Dance react to receiving this monumental award
First, your reaction to receiving the grant.
“We worked very closely with Mellon for 15 months on the proposal with virtual meetings, mentorship, budget and proposal alterations. The Mellon staff was extremely supportive in building the best possible proposal to present to the board. We were amazed and elated to find out the board approved the proposal because we worked extremely hard on this grant. The proposal reimagines how dance can work in communities in more meaningful ways beyond parachuting in and departing. Wideman Davis Dance is also the only dance-based project funded.”
Will such a huge amount of nearly two million dollars change the production in any way from its original performance?
“The grant isn’t solely about Migratuse Ataraxia in its performative context it’s about reimagining the original production and building new productions with the communities we are working in. We will be working with three different southern communities -- Montgomery, AL, Harpersville, AL, and Columbia, SC. The grant allows us to give fellowships to five to ten Black artists of multiple disciplines in each city to make their own work in the final phase of our working year in each community. That support is extremely important to artists coming out of a pandemic.”
Migratuse Ataraxia 2.0
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like for enslaved Africans, Associate Professors Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis are going to take us (back) there.
“Migratuse Ataraxia” explores how enslaved Africans were erased from Antebellum existence. The Davis’ have created a work to illustrate that concept and will be taking it on tour to be performed in Antebellum spaces throughout the South.
The historic Preston-Hampton Mansion and Gardens in Columbia was the site for the debut performance in 2019. https://www.historiccolumbia.org/tours/house-tours/hampton-preston-mansion-and-gardens
In the digital media age, the duo is integrating all media into the performance, not just acting on stage. “For example, screens (iPad, mobile phone, computers, monitors) are a major part of the current culture and we attempt to reflect the culture by bringing screens into our work. We use screens to give the viewer entry points into viewing sets of ideas and themes being explored through a dance work,” Davis said.
Another important element of the project is the interdisciplinary artmaking and collaboration component. Antebellum spaces are historic repositories of a shared history of both the enslaved and the people who enslaved them. Wideman-Davis and Davis aren’t interested in creating a historical work, but they do feel the figurative weight of the spaces and feel a profound sense of responsibility to present authentic performances reflecting the times, so, their performances will take place in plantation homes.
Davis said, “We are working with contemporary movement and ideas that are very current, yet reflective on our past as we project future possibilities. To do so we are working with movement, sounds, food, smells and visual art ideas to help our process.”
Migratuse Ataraxia “will question what it means to perform an archive of black melancholia in an historic antebellum…space that only projects a romantic…white narrative while omitting the presence of the enslaved African.”
The inaugural project was made possible through support from a University of SC Provost Grant.