With their politically inspiring and visually arresting show DAPLINE! about to open, we pulled aside two of our artists-in-residence for a game of five questions. Get to know André Zachery and LaMont Hamilton, and be sure to check out their show DAPLINE!, running July 30-August 1. You can also check out our official release about this incredible show on our News page!
Question: André, you are a New York-based choreographer/dancer and LaMont, until this summer, you have been based in Chicago in the visual art world. How did you meet each other and begin this collaboration?
André: We met in September 2014 during Black Male: Revisited, a community discussion at Gibney Dance Center through a mutual friend, Shayla-Vie Jenkins - a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
LaMont: Shayla and I were walking out of New York Live Arts to grab a bite to eat as André came walking in, lunch in hand. André offered me his lunch. Right there on the spot. That spirit of sharing was prescient to our seamless collaborations.
André: We connected right away. Our ideas began forming immediately in terms of how we visualized the process and the intention behind creating a full-length work.
Question: You recently held auditions for your month-long 'Critical Practice Through Movement' workshop with our community of young artists. What was your impression of the evening? What information did you learn from the talent in the room that will help to inform the process?
André: The audition was mind-blowing! We gave everyone a poem from Amiri Baraka and a piece of text from Paulo Freire and asked them to respond in the way that felt best for them. Each and every response was one of the most beautiful, honest, and well-thought artistic gestures I have ever seen. What I learned was that I had nothing to teach the young artists, merely a chance to expose them to new thoughts and offer insight because of my experiences.
LaMont: These young artist displayed a courage neither of us anticipated. The poem and the text are very difficult, and to interpret them calls for deep introspection. They took us to the depths and back up to unimaginable heights in a continuous motion. They internalized the notions of love, hurt and reality the poem evokes and laid it out in raw and fantastic ways. The ability to delve deep into themselves and spread themselves over the audition floor was nothing short of awe inspiring.
Question: When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Was there a defining moment or experience that lead you along that path?
André: This is going to be a cliché answer, but the first time I visited New York City in March 2001, I knew I was going to be an artist. I was raised very artistically but had not been exposed to many professional, working artists. So when I stepped off the bus at Port Authority and looked at all the people in the subway the first time, I was able to pick out the artists immediately and knew that's what I wanted to be. That was going to make me happy in life.
LaMont: It seems to me I've been an artist my entire life. It's just the way my brain is wired. I have a real need to express myself creatively, to see the world from another angle, to think deeply about all type of things. In high school, I was introduced to Amiri Baraka's writing. His words moved me and created a sensation unlike any my young mind had known or read before. Shortly after Baraka unlocked something in me, I reconnected with the writing of Gordon Parks. Parks moved in and decorated my heart and sensibility, set me on this path. From that moment on I began creating, first with poetry and photographs, eventually feeling my way to my own voice, which I didn't realize was waiting patiently in the corner the whole time. I began to listen to its whisper patiently until I no longer had to strain to hear it.
Question: Here at The Performance Project, we believe that engaging in artistic practice has inherent social and cultural value. I am wondering if you can talk about what your own artistic practice looks like. How do you engage with your art on a regular basis? How does it affect your relationship with / understanding of the present moment and also the past?
André: My process, and I believe I can speak for LaMont as well, involves lots of research and backstory into the topic we are investigating artistically. Before we enter the space with the other artist, we want to have as much source material as possible to draw from and expose to everyone, so our intentions and executions can be transparent and not clouded. Our work is anchored to relevant social issues, no matter how abstract our perspectives or leanings toward the issue. I can say for me, one element that I am now starting to allow more in the work is improvisation - which is completely informed by the past and manifests itself as a reflection of being present in the moment.
Question: Tell US your main hope/goal/takeaway upon completion of your residency with The Performance Project? Can you please answer this in three words or less?
LaMont: To incite action!