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The 2021 Pop Convergence: A Virtual Pop Conference, April 22-25th
Artwork by Alex Nero; Design by The Art Dictator
avatar for Kwabena Prentiss Slaughter

Kwabena Prentiss Slaughter

She Put Her Foot In It: Visualizing the Assertion of Willpower

In May 2020 I developed an artistic process that integrates tap dance and electrical circuits. The thematic origin of this intervention resides within the African American food culture idiom “she put her foot in it”. This phrase articulates an assertion of willpower through the metaphor of stomping on the food as part of the cooking process. The powerful affect of the stomp is humorously proposed as the cause of an exceptionally good tasting meal. It’s a playful statement that communicates gratitude.

In tap dance the contact of the foot with the floor also resides within the cultural framing of the stomp as an assertion of will. Through the performance method I’ve created, a dancer’s exertion of control of the theatrical lights emphatically inscribes on a visual and symbolic register the power circulating within the dancer’s mind and body. Adding color and brightness expands the scope of the audience’s synergetic experience to include hearing sound, seeing movement, and reading patterns of light. This creates a cycle in which the dance statement is in flux. Movement of the body underscores the sound. Sound underscores the light. Light illuminates the body in motion. These lighting effects could be triggered through other technologies, such as by the sounds resulting from the dance steps, but for me the dancer’s point of contact defines the conceptual foundation of this project. All aspects of the performance manifest as a result of a coming together.

A brief performance sample can be seen here. How it works can be seen in this video.

Kwabena Slaughter has an extensive background in the arts. His resume ranges from theater management and stage design to dancing with an aerial trapeze dance company. His B.A. and M.F.A. are in Studio Arts, and he’s currently in the American Studies PhD program at George Washington University. His writing’s been published in the journal Philosophy and Social Action, and his artwork’s been exhibited and collected in the U.S. and abroad.