Through Her Looking Glass: Emancipation of the Black Muse

Through her looking glass

Ife Michelle Presswood (MFA in Dance '21)

Spring, 2021

Through Her Looking Glass: Emancipation of the Black Muse


Ife’s thesis action is the curation of a documentary dance film entitled: Through Her Looking Glass: Emancipation of the Black Muse. The film follows Ife and dance company Ife Michelle Dance, including dancers Ashlee Brannon, Mia Perry, Kiesha Jennings, Alana Jones and Zuri Presswood as they investigate the residue of their individual and shared experiences as Black Women in the United States and develop an “Emancipated Spaces” as a place to protect and permission the Black Women.

The film is intended to demonstrate how such spaces, designed to acknowledging the Black Woman (artist) as a “truer self” (outside the lens of misogynoir), allows for self-actualization of the individual, valuing a breadth of embodied Black Womanhood and subsequently asserting Black Womanhood as an autonomous, heterogeneous and liberated existence.

Through Her Looking Glass: Emancipation of the Black Muse, An Undertaking of Black Women Artists and “Emancipated Spaces” seeks to explore the creative possibilities of Black Women Artists when disassociated from the stigma of misogynoir. Using closed spaces that protect and permission artistic practice and embodied engagement as technologies to reach the truer self, these spaces become a site to acknowledge and support the self-actualization and agency of Black Women Artists. In doing so, the showing of the produced art transcends the vulnerabilities of experienced misogynoir while making visible the autonomous Black Woman.

Engaging race, gender, and performance theory, this research unpacks the embodied reside of layered structural marginalization Black Women face in the U.S., through curatorial practice, collective artistic process, and embodied offering. In a six-month excavational undertaking, Ife Michelle Dance, an all-Black Woman dance company based in Charlotte, NC explore overlapping spaces: inner space, intersubjective space, rehearsal space, and curatorially intentional public space where Black Women Artists can be supported mentally, physically, and artistically as liberated Women and muses of [their] art.

Presented by the Duke Dance Program and Ife Michelle Presswood in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Dance in the Graduate School at Duke University.