Photo credit: Richard Martin
Photo credit: Richard Martin

Leslie Cuyjet

June 20-22, 8-10:30pm
BGX Gallery (Black Gotham Experience), 192 Front Street

For Leslie Cuyjet’s Extended Life Residency, THICK WAKE reimagined images and text from previous works, White Noise (The Shed, 2022) and For All Your Life Studies (SculptureCenter, 2021), which were comprised of personal home videos of swimming competitions from her youth. Cuyjet had recast herself as the silhouetted swimmer seen from underneath (and shot with filmmaker Richard Martin), in a seemingly endless stroke.

Projections overhead had evoked a feeling of being submerged, while various video loops had merged and segregated. The video transitions, created and designed with video artist Matthew Deinhart, had been accompanied by text that drew on family and cultural history of access to swimming pools and privilege. While Cuyjet had imagined the full scope of the project and installation, THICK WAKE was still in progress.

Audio transcription is available here.

Run time: approximately 20 minutes.

Program Note
In the 1950s, film star and Oscar nominee Dorthy Dandridge dipped her toe in a pool after being told that facility in the hotel she was performing in was not available to her because she was Black. Due to the rebellion of her toe, the pool was emptied and refilled. I think about my own contamination, real and imagined. And about the alchemy of water and its relationship to the body; the transference that occurs when we are submerged and surrounded despite our consciousness of it. I imagined this image, a dark-bodied swimmer in a perpetual stroke viewed from underneath, for a long time. Not knowing exactly why other than “needing to,” I am grateful to LMCC and Black Gotham Experience for supplying the space and resources to find it. This installation (an ambition that is limited here to the technology of projection and video), is a marker on the map of a larger journey, demonstrates the current state of my process and reconsiders the past as presence: past dances, a collective history, the remnants after a disturbance... It folds former ideas into new iterations. I appreciate you stopping by to offer your eyes. If you are watching, then you too are contaminated. What to do in this wake?

Thank you to Matthew, Kamau, Shana and everyone at LMCC. Thank you Rich and Jessie.

Performer: Leslie Cuyjet
Video Design: Matthew Deinhart
Videographer: Richard Martin
Administration: Leslie Cuyjet, Inc.

Leslie Cuyjet is part of LMCC's Extended Life Dance Development Program supported, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Leslie Cuyjet was presented as part of the 2024 River to River Festival, with the support of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels.

THICK WAKE was supported by Black Gotham Experience.

Black Gotham Experience
Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels
Portrait of a Black woman with dark, curly hair and wearing a black sweater staring straight at the camera, with the right side of her face obscured by shadow.

Leslie Cuyjet is an award-winning performer and choreographer in Brooklyn, NY. Her dances integrate text, video, and live performance while interrogating the performing body, personal legacy and dance history. Her tenure is decorated with performances and collaborations with Jane Comfort, Cynthia Oliver, Niall Jones, Yanira Castro, Will Rawls, David Gordon, NARCISSISTER, and Kim Brandt among others. Cuyjet’s work has been presented at The Kitchen, The Shed, MoMA PS1, and CPR – Center for Performance Research. Recent honors include Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants for Artists, Princeton University Hodder Fellowship, and an Outstanding Choreographer/Creator New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award for her 2021 work Blur.

Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels
Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels

Leslie Cuyjet was presented as part of the 2024 River to River Festival, with the support of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels. Profoundly attached to the world of dance since its origins, the High Jewelry Maison strengthens its commitment with Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Guided by the values of creation, transmission and education, this initiative aims to support artists and institutions in presenting choreographic heritage, while also promoting new productions.

Since its launch in 2020, it has promoted numerous dance companies for their creations as well as the presentation of multiple performances around the world.

The program is complemented each year by major events, including the Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival, whose first edition took place in London in March 2022.

This support further extends to awareness-raising actions focused on dance culture for the broadest possible audience, professionals and amateurs alike.