Constellations and Influences: Marjani Forté
March 21, 2013
In 2012 Danspace Project presented two historic Platforms, Parallels and Judson Now. In 2013 we continue to explore artistic constellations and lineages. What web of connections do new generations of artists trace? Who are their influences? This season we will ask each artist to share a significant artistic influence.
Below is Marjani Forté’s response:
Truth is…there are far too many to count. So I’ll go with the one’s that come to mind today, at this moment. I’m sure after I finish and especially after I turn this in, I’ll think of other super important and relevant influences that I forgot to name or remain hidden in some corner or my mind or just underneath my skin. Some are simply exhausted from being overused in the making of this work and may have chosen to retire for the week. So as you read this, don’t take much of it too seriously, I promise it’s only the tip of the iceberg HA!
My father started me watching Sci Fi movies, big Hollywood Blockbuster blowouts like Star Trek, Star Wars, Batman, and Predator very early. He’s awesome. He also started me reading Sci Fi super early, and my mom let him HA! Do you remember Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”? Yep, that along with the Wizard of Oz, and Sesame Street were my favorite after school veg out stories.
On the other end, my mom ran me, to and from dance classes, with the Ebony Jazzettes of Pasadena, CA where we danced to Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Prince, and my first solo performed to B.B. King’s “The thrill is gone”. It was there, with Nailah Randall that I learned Horton, Dunham, West African Techniques, Ballet, and Improvisation.
All this to say that right now my influences feel more like my history and my introduction to the creative arts. I can’t hold a rehearsal without quoting a Sci Fi Blockbuster…I admit it, as irritated as I often am with the racist bogusness of Hollywood I am influenced by it, it soaks in, and the imagery often astounds me i.e. The Matrix, 300, The Cell, Monster, The Soloist, The Last Dragon, The Fifth Element, and The Usual Suspects.
Then there are the book which I’m much more careful about, in terms of my consciousness. I’m super influenced by the investigation and integrity of artists/writers such as Zora N. Hurston, Octavia Butler (in a major way), Toni Morrison, Sarah Hopkins, Patricia Robinson, Thich Naht Hanh.
And finally there are the choreographers, which have had the most immediate impact on my practice as a choreographer. For the past 4 years I’ve worked very closely, and with honor, in collaboration with one of the most relevant, thoughtful, creative, and talented choreographers I know. Nia Love, has been my sister, my mentor, my spring board, my third eye, and my partner in crime. She inspires me. Prior to working with her I worked very closely with another giant in the field, and equally one of the smartest, insightful, passionate artists I know. Jawole willa Jo Zollar and the women of Urban Bush Woman was the first person to rid me of any fear about getting dark- “don’t be afraid to embrace your dark side”, and it was one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Quite simply, it gave me permission to “go there”, and trust that I could come back, and make the statement. Nia, Jawole, and my sisters of the Bush 2007-2012 (Nora Chipaumire, Paloma McGregor, Bennalldra Williams, Love Muwwakkil, Lela Aisha Jones, Catherine Denecy, Maria Bauman, and later Samantha Speis and Keisha Turner), I’m inspired by their brave choices, their literality, and their rawness in performance.
My Partner (capital P), fiancee and artist extraordinaire, Everett Saunders, is infinitely my influence, my inspiration, and my glue. Too much for words….
Finally (for real), Intentionally and Inevitably, my African and African American ancestry is essential to the physical, energetic, and intellectual components of my art making.
There it is…for today
Marjani Forté’s being Here… runs March 21-23, 2013 at Danspace Project