Cynthia Oliver Company Dance Theatre (COCo Dance)

I am interested in secrets, in the spaces between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Intrigued by women’s worlds and the ways we negotiate complicated lives, I investigate these interests physically through movement that explores gesture and the transitory spaces between departure and arrival.  My movement is vigorous, sometimes quirky, yet always fully embodied. I use voice and sound in experimental and guttural ways. In my work, choreography and text are intricately intertwined.  One cannot exist without the expression of the other.  They are a poetic mix of physicality and spoken word, and together they complete a picture.
My aesthetic voice is one located between borders, between and across social, political, economic, gendered, and national boundaries of blackness, of Caribbean-ness, American and African-ness, of womanhood, and the complicated navigation of the human condition.  My work plays with the negotiation of the world in which we live from multiple perspectives.  Topics I have explored range from the metaphysics of Afro-Caribbean belief and reality, race and the language of fashion, death and mourning, to madness, womanhood, transnationalism and Caribbean mythology.  The Caribbean figures greatly in what I do, as it is often the source of my inspiration.  It is the place where I became a woman and an artist. It is a place of fascinating contradictions and diversity.

Because of the diversity of people, ideas, and issues in my life and work, I am committed to interdisciplinarity. I am interested in total theatre and inclusivity. I work with a diverse group of artists.  They are part of the rich world in which I live and are what make my work rich. I believe the job of art is to express points of view that cause one to pause, to consider and reconsider one’s position/s, and especially to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.  I believe art, in its clearest expression, demonstrates a difference and simultaneous unity of experience.  I want to get dirty, acknowledge demons, hail the angels, tell secrets, question and celebrate conflicted, complicated, glorious lives fully lived.

Cynthia Oliver has toured the globe as a dancer with contemporary dance companies including David Gordon Pick Up Co., Ronald K. Brown/Evidence and Bebe Miller Company.  She is an award winning chorographer who has won a New York Dance and Performance Award (a Bessie), the title, “Outstanding Young Choreographer” from German Ballet Tanz magazine (2002), and numerous awards from national arts foundations supporting her work, including Creative Capital (2002), the Illinois Arts Council Choreography Fellowship (2004), Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund (2008), National Performance Network Creation Fund (2009), NEFA Touring Support (2009), a Cal Arts Alpert Award nomination (2009), and others. She holds a PhD in performance studies, authored the book Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean (U Press of Mississippi, 2009) and is a Professor in the dance department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she earned a University Scholar Award in 2011.

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