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  • Kemi OG

Internal Dialogue

Updated: Jul 15

Capturing moments of questions, perceptions, black holes, and cycles.

a girl stands in a room filled with dots that look like stars, there are 4 colorful beings around her (from left to right), an orange woman sitting on the floor, a being the color of lighting looking to the right, a pink woman in a traditional Yoruba garment and head wrap looking at the screen, a purple woman in a traditional Yoruba garment and head wrap walking towards to the right. The girl is in the middle, facing away from the camera. She has long black faux locks with golden accessories in comfortable baggy clothes and barefoot. Half of her body on the right side is covered in shadow. This picture was taken at MATCH Houston in June 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane

photography by Lynn Lane


Premiered at The Midtown Arts and Theatre Center (MATCH Houston)

on June 9th and 12th, 2022

at the 2022 Dance Source Houston Barnstorm Dance Festival


Funded by: The Dance Source Houston Artist in Residence Program


Project Credits:

Benjamin Pierce: Projection Animation

801 Visuals: Projection Videography

King's Soldier: Sound Mixing

Tiffany Schrepferman: Lighting Design

Kemi OG: Creative Director, Writer, Choreographer, Performer, and Video Editor

Lynn Lane: Performance Photography

Set SVN: Performance Videography


Props, costume, and set by Kemi OG.


Special Thanks to:

Jhon Stronks: Artist in Residence Program Advisor who dedicated hours to deep conversations about life and how dance can play a powerful role in reflecting life's complexities authentically.


Joshua Curry: Owner of the biggest green screen in Houston that I've found till date who believed in our project and opened up his space for experimentation and creativity.

 

"I created the projections for the show from my home in New Hampshire. I haven't worked on a project like this in five years, and since then, most of my creativity has been interacting with physical things like wood, plants, and fabric. These projects always have an ephemeral quality because they are live performances and the projections are just pixels momentarily beamed onto the stage. They disappear as soon as the show ends. Everything happens in a few magical moments on the stage, and I wish I would have been there to see it. Time and distance certainly created some stressful circumstances, but the lessons we learned make me excited to do more projects like this in the future. "

- Benjamin Pierce, Projection Animator

 

*psst! Hey, guess what? I'm trying to gauge interest to see if I should develop more performances and projects like Internal Dialogue. While you're reading, make sure to participate in the polls. They help a lot!


Thanks!

Kemi

 



About the Project:


A black woman in a grey shirt and baby blue pants with black faux locs and golden accessories in her hair, sitting at a small white desk in a dark room. Her right leg is bound to a rope that goes off into the distance. She is hunched over, writing in a notebook almost like she is taking a test. Next to her is a white jar of pain medication and a gray pencil case. This picture was taken at MATCH Houston in June 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane

photography by Lynn Lane.

Internal Dialogue is an ongoing stage projection work exploring the inner thoughts of a black woman dealing with ambition, mental cycles, trauma, emotional support, and what it means to heal and to have self-love. It is a piece that uses projection, Afrodance, and emotion work to visualize the different aspects of one's personality and how they interact while trying to make sense of everyday events and the things we cannot control. The project was created as a result of an Artist in the Residence Program at Dance Source Houston. It premiered on June 9th at the Barnstorm Dance Festival in Houston, Texas.



Photography by Lynn Lane.

 

Do You Want To See More Afrodance Projects Like This?

  • 0%Heck Yes!

  • 0%Nah.



 


A Deeper Look:


Now. Before you read this, keep this in mind. I don't write specifically about the concepts in Internal Dialogue and what certain things mean. You will need to watch the show and figure that out for yourself. What I write about is the state of mind that created it.


Enjoy the Madness,

Kemi.


Being an artist...

A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories covering most of her face. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She is hunched over, both legs straight with her left foot flexed on the ground. Her left hand holds her stomach while her right arm hangs in front of her. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

photography by Lynn Lane.


In the world of Nigerian immigrants, we talk of engineers, doctors, and lawyers and how those careers are challenging and prestigious, and they are. To oversimplify, you must learn from someone who has organized that information for you. You memorize, figure out the patterns, then practice, practice, practice, and with a little bit of luck, networking magic, and universal favor, you have an excellent job with a lovely house, or at least a better chance of surviving all the economic, social, and political madness and... American dreamify me.


At least, that's how I felt about my form of engineering. Fair assumption? It depends on who you ask. Oversimplification? You bet. I can't speak to the other two, but engineering felt like a bunch of straight lines. It was a matter of time before I understood the pattern. Creative entrepreneurship, however, is a whole different level of challenge and prestige. Not only that, it feels like a black hole.



A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories on a dark stage. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She stands on her left leg, her right foot slightly raised off the ground and flexed. Her left hand is holding her right, which is open and stretched. She looks off into the distance with a look of concern. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Imagine looking for a massive bucket of knowledge that no one has organized. It's your job to put together the pieces. If there are organized buckets of knowledge, they are not always peer-reviewed. There seems to be a lot of bias and interest in you understanding things a certain way. Imagine having to work to understand every piece of information to learn, and then thinking "wait... where does this come from and why?" BEFORE you decide to master it and add it to your mental collection. Imagine realizing it's not one bucket of knowledge you need to understand but several to succeed. You have to wear different hats, which are buckets of knowledge to master, apply, and grow in. It's not one job. It's multiple. And then imagine that the human factor feels like it plays a more significant role in whether you get what is required to do your work and put food on the table or get paid at all. Black hole. Cue lightning for buckets of knowledge (hahaha).


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She is sitting at a white desk clutching a white jar of pain medication. Behind her are streaks of blue, green, and red light in the form of lightning. She is mainly covered in shadow. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Maybe that's not fair. I by no means strategically forget how challenging a corporate job was, although the reasons for quitting are different, a discussion for another time. Perhaps that is just what it means to be entrepreneurial with Afrodance. Perhaps that is just what it means to be entrepreneurial, period. Or perhaps... that is really how life is. The difference is how much privilege, money, things, and connections can be developed to create bubbles of ignorance or focus (or both) to make our lives easier and give our brains a break. Perhaps I just think in circles, and this is where all creativity and mental stress are born, grow up, display madness (creatively or not), and... never die, but spin endlessly until these weary eyes blink for the last time.

.

.

.


My mind is plagued with several crossroads. This way or this way? Each one more complicated than the last, and all around us, the world seems to be successfully moving on and leaving us behind with the pressure to always be on display. Always on a stage. Always a performance, whether our bodies are moving or not.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. A lock of hair lays across her neck. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She stands hip-width apart, leaning slightly more on her left leg. She stares blankly up into the distance. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Should I talk about my work and how it makes me feel?

Should I stay quiet and let others see what it means for themselves?


Should I focus on community and give everything to help make things easier for someone else,

or focus on profitability and sell everything to survive?

Should I have boundaries and risk being misunderstood and cast aside,

or should I smile, laugh, and perform on-demand in the name of culture?


Should I discipline my practice with rules on how to create, so I don't exploit the thing I respect?

Or is there space to creatively break those rules and create with what I know because that process feeds me?


When should I be strong and unyielding? When should I be flexible and empathetic?

What are my boundaries? What will I do and will not do?

How can I stay true to that without knowing the reasons I hold those boundaries are 100% valid?

What do I cling to when the random machine of life decides to match a decision based on that boundary with a painful consequence that I tried to avoid?

What is right?

What is the happy medium?


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She stands hip-width apart, body facing the camera, arms out, hands open but clenched. Her face is contorted with her eyes closed. She looks like she is yelling. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Analysis paralysis. A never-ending series of questions with real-life consequences. Every minute, hour, day. Like a circle or some genjutsu where you find yourself back in the place you thought you learned from. Dynamic stagnation. 2 Sides of A Shadow. Mirrors.


In my second year of teaching publicly, I prayed this prayer:


"God show me my weaknesses, madness, and the things that I do that make me imperfect."

Then I said...

get this...

"purge by fire."

...

EXCUSE THE HECK OF ME? WHO SAYS THAT?

...

Too many sources of wisdom say the one that runs their mouth too much is considered foolish.


I told a friend this, and we laughed about silly prayers but then talked about the concept of seasons. It feels like I've been in a painful season full of doubts, failures, and questioning for a long time, and it's intensified in the last two years. I was hoping by now I would have some answers or some testimonies. I probably do, but I still struggle with the critical mind (2 Sides of A Shadow). Those negative thoughts still make all the noise in my head in their usual annoying "mountain out of a molehill way." Trust me. God and I have had some colorful conversations that I will have to repent from when this is all over. I feel that She/They/He will again prove me gloriously foolish.


Purge by Fire.

Full-Time Artist.

They feel the same.


A black woman stands in a room filled with white and gray dots that look like stars. She has long black faux locks with golden accessories. She stands in comfortable baggy clothes, barefoot. Half of her body on the right side is covered in shadow. There are 4 colorful beings around her (from left to right): an orange woman sitting on the floor, a being the color of blue lightning looking to the right, a pink woman in a traditional Yoruba garment and head wrap facing the camera, and a purple woman in a traditional Yoruba garment and head wrap walking to the right. The girl stands in the middle, her back to the camera. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


And yet... this chaos and questioning is a consequence of my own decisions. Perhaps, I wonder whether the success and the answers I've been looking for have been within reach this entire time. Perhaps, I'm actively shutting my eyes to it because I'm afraid of what it means and what it comes with. The view of success on my social media timeline seems all about validation and exposure. But what about expectations, compromise, criticism, demands, a challenge to boundaries, and an avalanche of other people's views, opinions, and insecurities that comes with it?


Is that all there is to success? Do I really want that? And if so, in what dose? Does success mean popping more bubbles of ignorance and focus that make my life feel easier or giving my brain the illusion of a break? Does success mean handling more things I do not know? Can I ensure I won't get lost in the whirlwind of "a job well done?" Can I be of service and still create a safe, protected space for myself? The same space where all this work comes from? Will I get more resources and strength to handle it? Will it be something sustainable that I can build a life on, or temporary, something that can dissipate in a matter of moments? Will it magnify the chaos I'm feeling now?


Or can I pick and choose? Customize my success package? Take out the things I don't want? Build something new? A new definition for me? How does one do that? Like a circle or some genjutsu where you find yourself back in the place you thought you learned from. Dynamic stagnation.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She is on her knees with lines of green and blue swirling behind her. Her face is covered with her hair and shadows, and her arms are wrapped around her chest. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


The first time people started to become familiar with my work, I was excited. I thought, "Eheh! Now I can be doing something!" The more people know about my work, the more opportunities there will be to create new work. But... it wasn't like that at all.


I lost my desire and passion for dance, the reason why I did things.


It became about chasing something else, and I felt I was giving my all to a goal I didn't want but was told I should get because it was necessary. (I would like to set the record straight that it doesn't mean those people were wrong. But a one size fits all approach doesn't necessarily work for everyone. Or I'm stubborn. Both are valid.) I got lost in other people's opinions, values, dreams, failures, traumas, goals... opportunities and pressure simultaneously. Expectations to act a certain way, react a certain way, create a certain way, hold space a certain way, and build my career a certain way. How has that alone influenced decisions in ways we didn't expect? What have I done to myself or my craft that I didn't intend, out of some wacky thought that banged around in my mind because of the aspiration of a like? A lack of validation? An avoidance of criticism? A need to be seen masquerading as a need to get exposure for my creative endeavors?


Perhaps I unconsciously orchestrate these complex situations and play a solo game of 200 questions that make it harder for me to get things done, all in the name of perfection.

Perhaps I orchestrate them to build my mental muscles, to make sure I'm making the right decisions that make the most sense for the people those decisions affect.

Perhaps I orchestrate them so if I can get through this season, dealing with what might come next might not be so bad since I have some practice.


Because honestly, I am enamored, terrified, and overwhelmed by my vision of what my life could be.


Could this all be true? All different parts of my personality talking to each other to find a consensus on how to move forward? Sure, we can go with that.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants bathed in green light on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope that snakes towards the camera and then goes off to the left outside the frame. She stands facing the camera, head cocked to one side. To the right and the left of the woman are two shadows. The shadow on the left has a low ponytail, and the shadow on the right has Bantu knots. The two shadows each outstretch a fist in front of them. They are all bathed in a spectrum of red, orange, yellow, and green light. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Amidst the dark void of questions, I see a small, fragile seed of clarity. I want to think it is real and not an illusion. Conflicting ideas have valid points when you're constantly bombarded with new things and concepts in a world of too much information. The vague promise of certainty rooted in opinions masquerading as fact through the vehicle of a massive cosign (a million views, a million comments, a million likes, a million retweets) starts to look like a convenient marketing tactic I can decide to believe in just so I can make a decision and move on and conveniently blame it on someone else when it doesn't work (exhale). But this feels different. It feels unique to me, created slowly and painfully, out of the mass of confusion, and with it, some characteristics:

  • A lesson that I might not be right, and even if I'm right, my environment might not respect that, and that's ok.

  • An understanding that consequences will come regardless and doing the best I can is enough.

  • A constant relearning of the concepts "thou shalt not come and kill thyself" and "who sent thee?" and how these two phrases have come to mean a thousand different things in a thousand different scenarios.

And wrapped around this tiny seed is a thickening film of consistently exploring the depths of humility and forming a new opinion on what humility is not.

And what do we do as humans when faced with multiple things we don't understand? We either avoid it, pretend it doesn't exist, or try to capture it, study it, and understand it. Creatively, we try to bring to life the pictures we see behind our own eyes that visualize it.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She is standing on her left leg, right foot slightly off the ground. In her hands is a green phone. She is looking towards the right. Behind her is a white desk bathed in blue light. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Internal Dialogues demanded an uncomfortable level of vulnerability. In a quest to visualize mental chaos and cyclical patterns you have to come to terms with mental chaos and cyclical patterns. You have to face it, study it, log how you feel... come up with words to describe what you feel, and then figure out how to create a sequence of movements that shows how you feel.


And then perform it.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt, dark gray pants, and a black face mask. She has long black hair in braids. She is in a low back bend with her right hand reaching towards the sky in a brightly lit dance studio. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Rehearsal footage during Artist in Residence Program


What was I actually doing at that time? What triggered this particular moment and why? What did I do or not do to lead me to this point that I don't like? and why do I keep finding myself here? How am I repeating these patterns? All the way down to...


"Now shaku shaku was originally used to represent a drunk person, maybe as a way to escape the woes of life, can I just use it to represent being high on something else and still have it reflect an escape from... something? What is that thing? What's the next move that feels both natural and conceptually makes sense? Oh that... can this body even do that??? Agenda for next rehearsal because Not Today."


2 Sides of A shadow. Mirrors. Like a circle or some genjutsu where you find yourself back in the place you thought you learned from. Dynamic stagnation, or maybe a slow spiral towards something new. To think I had learned my lessons, magically healed from mental health, and conquered my mind. I can't wait to do some more happy pieces. I guess I think about my class choreographies in this way. But the deep, sometimes dark, questioning, and mysterious? We'll be here for a while.


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a lit stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She stands on her right leg, left foot slightly off the ground, knees slightly bent. She is leaning over her right leg facing towards the left. Behind her are a white desk and a black chair. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


So yea, the piece is about being an artist, dealing with questions that seem to have no answers and having to make decisions anyway, but also dealing with cycles of behaviors, conflicting perceptions about reality, and oh... a million other things... all in the usual name of Afrodance.

One thing is for sure, though. I miss being on stage. It brings a level of challenge that teaching hasn't reached yet. Hopefully, the next version of Internal Dialogue will find itself on stage again. Also, I hope this prayer is wiser than the last one:

"God, be with me through this time. Help me to settle with my life no matter how chaotic and unstable it feels, grant me the resources to create more, and the patience to walk through what feels like the valley of the shadow of stress and anxiety. Teach me peace of mind, confidence, discipline, and boundaries. Show me the way. I literally have no other choice but to trust you now. "


A black woman dances in a gray shirt and baby blue pants on a dark stage. She has long black hair in faux locks with gold accessories. Her right leg is bound by a white rope. She stands hip-width apart with her left hand holding her open right hand. She looks off into the distance with a look of concern. Behind her is a white desk bathed in blue light. Behind the desk is a stretch of green light that looks like lightning. This picture was taken during the Internal Dialogue African dance Stage Performance at MATCH Houston on June 9th, 2022. Photography by Lynn Lane.

Photography By Lynn Lane.


Questions to think about:

- What existential questions have been dancing around in your mind lately?

-Where are the areas you feel you should have figured out by now, but it feels you are still stuck at the beginning?

-Does it feel like there are different voices in your head with different perspectives that sometimes seem to have very valid points? How do you decide which one to follow?

-What do you do when you're stuck with questions you feel you can't answer?

- What is your relationship with success? Have you sat down and thought through what it really means to have your dreams come true?

- What is holding you back from doing what you need to do? Do you also have the procrastination bug? What feeds it in you?


Enjoy.


Watch the Internal Dialogue Trailer Here:



Watch the Internal Dialogues Rehearsal Compilation:



 

Support Internal Dialogue!


Internal Dialogue is a work in progress, and any resources help to make it better and more accessible to more people! Your donation helps me keep the lights on as a creative and covers the expenses required to build on the work and travel to perform this piece in other cities. I'm also using Internal Dialogue to gauge interest in projects like this. If you can, donate what you would pay to see a show like this.


To thank everyone for their support, I'll be sharing an excerpt of the premiere performance that will be available after donating. For those who donate $10 or more and don't mind a public thank you, I'll be adding their names to the list of funders at the top of this page.


*Please Note: I am not a non-profit entity, and this project isn't fiscally sponsored by one, so I cannot promise any tax deductions.


Thank you so much for your support!

Kemi OG


Which Texas City Would be a Good Option to Perform Internal Dialogue?

  • 0%Houston, TX

  • 0%Dallas, TX

  • 0%San Antonio, TX

  • 0%Austin, TX


I'm starting with Texas for now, but it doesn't mean I'm not open to new locations. If there's another city, you want to suggest, please comment down below! To stay tuned to updates on new performances of Internal Dialogue and other projects, join my mailing list by clicking here.




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