Arts and Culture

Movements of memory: Leslie Parker premieres a dance of lineage and experience 

Silhouetted person dancing on stage
"Divination Tools: imagine home," premiered at the Walker Art Center Thursday. It is the latest entry into dancer and choreographer Leslie Parker's project "Call to Remember."
Courtesy of The Walker Art Center

St. Paul-based choreographer and dancer Leslie Parker premiered a new work Thursday night at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.  

Parker, who is known for her work in improvisational dance, showcased a new piece composed entirely of this style. 

“‘Divination tools: imagine home’ is Black improvisation, centering Black dance improvisation,” Parker told MPR News.

The piece explores “Black divinity, lineage and contemporary experience,” according to a press release. Described as a collaboration between the dancers and musicians, the piece changes with every performance.

Many of the themes in the piece are influenced by her upbringing in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. Parker credits it with giving her a sense of individual thought and community.  

“I've always had it in me to remember the roots in which I come from, which also is a channel to always remember that no matter what society may throw at you, you always have an opportunity to thrive,” Parker explained.  

“But it's up to you to position yourself to be in the conversations to do that. So that's why this work is associated with pedagogy, activism, conjuring, spirituality and art.” 

Drawing inspiration from diverse improvisational Black music and dance styles, Parker intends the performance to resonate with individuals from all backgrounds. 

“[We are] creating a very spacious container that is welcoming for people with all backgrounds to participate and witness in a way where their witnessing and observation is not passive. It's very much an exchange,” Parker said.

“Divination Tools: imagine home” is the latest installment of Parker's long-term project, “Call to Remember,” which delves into similar themes.

The remaining performances are May 12 and 13.  

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.