Dance Department Chair Nailah Randall-Bellinger Visits Toni Morrison English Class
This week, Dance Department Chair Nailah Randall-Bellinger was a guest speaker in Jane Reynolds’s class, "Major Author: Toni Morrison." Nailah spoke to students about movement and dance in the novel Beloved and showed a snippet of her film Initiation - In Love Solidarity, a piece Nailah choreographed for Harvard University that explores the Middle Passage, a topic students discussed in class.
Nailah mentioned how Toni Morrison’s work doesn’t just talk about love or slavery. There are layers of themes in her work. She focuses on the Black American community, not through the gaze of the white lens but through the gaze of the Black lens. This made her very unique and the world started recognizing that her voice needed to be heard, studied and explored.
Throughout the years there has been numerous scholarly work written on Toni Morrison and Nailah knew when writing her master thesis that she wanted to take a different approach, and that is when she decided to do choreography. Morrison mentions dance throughout her work and as a dancer, that stood out to Nailah. In her work, Morrison also talks about love and survival, survival as a means for coping, and for Nailah, that survival is through movement, through dance.
Nailah is currently in residence at Harvard Dance Center
this fall creating a new work, titled Initiation– In Love Solidarity,
and engaging the community in the process. Her piece
is a choreographic narrative exploring the embodiment of the Middle Passage, and the resilience and evolving identities of women in the African diaspora. A film component of the work was created at historic sites in New England related to the transatlantic slave trade and emancipation. The imagery of the cowrie shell is present throughout, chosen as an emblem of the transformative identity of the Black female body.
The work is an invitation to enter a dialogue on the journey of African diasporic people, as it connects to the whole of humanity, through reflection, reclamation, and regeneration, moving from trauma to resilience in love solidarity. The film and live performance were presented in various formats alongside discussions this fall. Read more about it here.