Alexandria Wailes had a pleasant, attractive harvest. As a Lady in Purple in “Your Colored Girls Looked at Suicide / When the Rainbow is a Team,” she finally plays a part. shows she is: deaf, mixed race and dancer.
In Ntozake Shange celebrated choreopoem feminist, through Dec. 8 at the Community, seven seven color, named after and dressed in various ridges of the rainbow, exploring trauma and resilience through movement and text. Ms Wailes' performance is particularly pleasing in her verification of American Sign Language's A. Brown's choreography.
“That was a challenge,” said Ms Wailes through an interpreter in an interview. “I didn't want it to be too mobile so the language started to lose.”
Dance runs deep in her body. Ms Wailes, who became deaf after meningitis, gave her just her first birthday. When she was about 3, a doctor recommended that she try a class. It was a way, she said, “to help me heal the world and deal with it.”
Even outside the studio, she has done a good dance. “Communicating with people I didn't understand was always a dance way, ”she said. “It is a way of breaking down barriers between languages.”
“For Colored Girls” is a series of monologues. In the Lady in Purple, Ms. Wailes the story about it a mixed race dancer who performs the role of goddess of Egyptian love. Production director, Leah C. Gardiner, was delighted with the elegant weaving of two visual, dance and A.S.L.
“I could ask for something,” said Mr Gardiner, and “she could ask me questions and then take that information and put that in her body and translate that to A.S.L. in relation to the text. ”
Ms Wailes worked with Onudeah Nicolarakis, who is accredited as the A.S.L production director., to focus on making signage and spoken language together, as well as to suggest and care for choreography.
“She was just shifting the words, she transferred the experience and feeling,” said Ms. Gardiner. “One of my favorite moments in the show is when Alexandria turns up the stage and is talking about how her hoop skirt falls. She shakes at her bottom and pull the skirt down, but she makes a kind of back. He is innocent and expressive. ”
The role was not initially for a deaf actor, but initially, Mr Gardiner – with Shange's approval – wanted to extend the idea of what an African-American woman could be there. She also had another ambition in this production: To demonstrate the color of color, where a skin tone – whether lighter or darker – can cause favor and discrimination within an ethnic group.
Ms Wailes has a lighter complexity, which is half-black, than the others on the scene. “When Alexandria came in and interviewed, I was excited by Wow, maybe I could explore my dream of depression,” said Ms. Gardiner. “And, from my heart, is she also deaf? This is crazy. ”
The Public had the premiere of “For Colored Girls” in 1976, the year after Mr Wailes was born. And that link is wise for her. “As a deaf color woman grew up dancing, ”she said she could see herself in the role. As she put it, “I felt I needed to do this show at this time.”
Ms Wailes recently spoke about A.S.L. and moving together, listening to her body and the freedom that dance gives her. They are editorial extracts from that conversation.
How does dance break the barriers between languages?
It is in the body when you learn to listen. And you learn to listen differently to a dancer. Being deaf, we always use our eyes; it is so critical for us to live and accept the world. It is therefore only necessary to introduce dance automatically on my career as a deaf person.
I was very lucky for the last two years of the high school, I moved to the Secondary Model for the Deaf. It was in the 1990s and had a strong performing arts program. I started meeting other deaf dancers.
What did this give you?
More motivated and incentive to stay true towards my path as an artist thinking no one I had to look up to. I had no example. Deaf color colored woman? Dancing[Laughter] I had to go, O.K., if that's not out, I want to create it.
How do you bring yourself to the character?
This is for me completely as an actor as a dancer. I have seven brothers or sisters. Every girl we have. There are seven women in the show, and I am the only deaf person in the cast and in my family.
Are you generally expressive when you sign?
Can. I can turn it down and be less represented. I've been working with contemporary choreographer Heidi Latsky for a few years. She had a piece, “Somewhere,” which inspired different inspiration “Over the Rainbow.” I told her that I wanted to challenge the signatures, which look very beautiful and pastoral and emotional. I wanted a signature to be used in an urban way. I wanted to feel gritty, edgy and just more – more like a positive attack, like your face.
How did she work with you?
She worked with me on my opinion. She said: “Don't put it against you. It does not apply to a show. ” I understood, but it was a challenge because my voice was voice. My voice is my voice. But over time he was releasing, as I was concentrating on American Sign Language and bringing movement together.
How do you find rhythm without hearing the words?
The signage is quite natural. The challenge is to decide which signs best honor the text, as you often see the slashes in the Ntozake text or see a space or ampand.
How can I incorporate this physical language on top of a dance language on top of confidence and work with the other actors speaking Ntozake? Because there is a big difference between speaking and signing, can I keep a signature, but you have to take a breath, right? There is a difference in how breath is used in both languages.
This production explores the concept of color. What effect did a skin tone have on you in your life?
I didn't want to look like this, do you know what I mean? [Laughter] So I was very grateful to Leah. She got me. She understood the indigenous challenges I deal with in life as I am always going. I am not to deny that privilege exists.
But I was forced to suppress who I am – because I don't have the idea about who I'm inside. It is an interesting tension, and it is a constant dynamic that I am always negotiating.
Do you know why you took dance as a deaf person?
Because it is another language. I learned sign language and dance around the same time. Dance is a physical vocabulary and is a means of communication. Sometimes it depends on sound – but not always.