Okwui Okpokwasili is a New York-based writer, performer and choreographer. In partnership with collaborator Peter Born, Okpokwasili creates multidisciplinary projects that are raw, intimate experiences. Their first New York production, Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance premiered at Performance Space 122 and received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Production; an immersive installation version was featured in the 2008 Prelude Festival. Their second collaboration, Bronx Gothic, won a 2014 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Production and continues to tour nationally and internationally. In June of 2014, they presented an installation version entitled Bronx Gothic: The Oval as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival. Their current project in development is Poor People’s TV Room, an early iteration of which was presented by Lincoln Center in the David Rubinstein Atrium in June 2014.
As a performer, Okpokwasili frequently collaborates with award-winning director Ralph Lemon, including How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?; Come home Charley Patton (for which she also won a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award); a duet performed at The Museum of Modern Art as part of On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century; and, most recently, Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room. She has appeared as an actor in many productions, including Nora Chipaumire’s Miriam; Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Kristin Marting’s Sounding; Young Jean Lee’s LEAR; Richard Foreman’s Maria del Bosco; Richard Maxwell’s Cowboys and Indians; and Joan Dark (The Goodman Theater/The Linz European Capital of Culture). Film credits include Malorie’s Final Score, Knut Åsdam’s Abyss, The Interpreter, The Hoax and I Am Legend.
Okpokwasili‘s residencies and awards include The French American Cultural Exchange (2006-2007); Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012); Baryshnikov Arts Center Artist-in-Residence (2013), NewYork Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Under Construction at the Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Program (2014-15); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ artist grant in dance (2014), BRIClab (2015), Columbia University (2015) and the Rauschenberg Residency (2015).
Peter Born is a director, designer and filmmaker. In addition to his work with Okpokwasili, he is currently collaborating with David Thomson on a cycle of installation/performances revolving around a post-sexual incarnation of Venus, happening throughout 2015-16. He designed and created the set for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot and he has created performance videos with Chipaumire, Thomson and Daria Fain, among others. He works as an art director and prop stylist for video and photo projects with clients such as Vogue, Estee Lauder, Barney’s Co-op, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, “25” magazine, Northrup Grumman and The Wall Street Journal, with collaborators including Kanye West, Barnaby Roper, Santiago and Mauricio Sierra, Quentin Jones and NoStringsUS Puppet Productions. He is a former New York public high school teacher, an itinerant floral designer, corporate actor-facilitator and furniture designer. His collaborations with Okwui Okpokwasili have garnered two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards.
Photo courtesy of artist