Twin Cities and NYC-based artist, Leslie Parker premieres Divination Tools: imagine home in NYC on October 5-7, 2023, at Danspace Project after its world premiere at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in May, 2023. Divination Tools: imagine home is the latest iteration of Parker's multi-year, ongoing, project, Call to Remember. Before the performance on Friday, October 6th, Parker brings her processional practice, Threshold of Change into collaboration with the NYC-based Black Gotham Experience walking tours.
Please read this essay on the collaboration by Black feminist scholar and Parker's long-time collaborator, Naimah Petigny.
Leslie Parker Dance Project and Black Gotham Experience–in their first-ever collaboration–come together to present a processional in NYC, in partnership with Danspace Project. Established in 2010 by artist/historian Kamau Ware, Black Gotham Experience creates media at the intersection of scholarship and aesthetics that illustrates the impact of the African Diaspora missing from collective consciousness as well as the public square. Leslie Parker's Threshold of Change processional is driven by the multiplicity of entry points that assemble Black embodied, pedagogical experience, in real time, and asks the following question: “What is the call of home in this space?” Parker reflects, “This question requires me to be honest about my reference points, of where I come from, my history. What has moved me from my history to the present moment, and who I’m in conversation with in the present moment? What is their history? What brings them to that moment?”
Together, Parker and Black Gotham Experience have co-created a processional which will take place before Friday’s performance of Divination Tools: imagine home—the latest iteration of Parker’s epic, years-long work, Call to Remember—presented at Danspace. The processional will entail approximately 20 minutes of walking and begins at the historic Manuel Plaza in the East Village of Manhattan and will end at Danspace’s home venue of the St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery.
A processional is a guided, intentional, and collective movement through space. This continuous, forward movement—which still can include pauses and other types of pacing—allows participants and witnesses alike to both individually experience a particular geography, while also having a collective, embodied experience.
Though mapped out, processionals are also improvisational. They assemble a tension of attachment and surrender to the ever-changing landscapes and temporalities of the city. Throughout history, and especially within Black and African Diasporic cultures and traditions, processionals have played a key role in gathering community together. Processionals can be both deeply sacred and secular—they accompany burial rites as well as inaugurate important celebrations like Carnival or Mas. Different materials from the earth are integrated into certain artistic practices as mediums that integrate daily life from an African aesthetic, perspective, history, and culture, and one that grounded in West Africa, and its Orishas—spirits that play key roles in the Yoruba religion of West Africa and several religions of the African diaspora that derive from it, such as Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé. This processional stems from a Black experimental practice which deepens connectivity, and as such is an invitation to think about belonging. The processional culminates at St. Mark’s Church—one of New York City's oldest sites of continuous religious practice—-where the performance of Divination Tools: imagine home will shortly follow.
Finally, Parker asks that we consider the following:
"Journey is not just a singular, one-person journey. It is a journey that is shared, you know? I believe that there is a knowledge of sharing that can also take us into the unknown when we come together. This process of sharing may mean an exchange with the unknown and with people that we may not see on a regular basis or don’t have background information about. That opens the possibility for something more lofty, which is why I also like to talk about the more lofty and spiritual, because I believe that there’s energy in the sharing that extends beyond just our own physical existence."