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'The Sweet Goddess Project'

Multi-media dance work examines roots of Chicago House music

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January 23, 2012 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON --- Two performances of “The Sweet Goddess Project” -- a multi-media dance theater work that explores the experiences of women in Chicago House music -- will be performed at Northwestern University. 

The performances, hosted by the Northwestern School of Communication’s dance program, will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, in the Ballroom Theater of the Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center, 10 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. 

Performers and choreographers Meida McNeal, Abra Johnson and Boogie McClarin will clap, stomp and groove to “House” music as they retell the history of a community, a culture, a lifestyle and the experiences of young, urban people of color and varied sexual preferences through movement and spoken word. A pastiche of sonic styles, Chicago House music emerged in the Windy City in the early 1980s. 

The dance work is based on ethnographic research by McNeal, artistic director of Honey Pot Performance, a woman-focused collaborative community that chronicles Afro-diasporic contemporary life.   

Part of an ongoing study to identify core characteristics of “House” culture, “The Sweet Goddess Project” illustrates the power of “House” music. It attempts to pierce the male-dominated surface of the “House” scene, examine its cultural and musical roots and highlight its feminine, sensual and political sides. 

An independent artist and scholar, McNeal received a Ph.D. from Northwestern’s School of Communication in 2008. In addition to McNeal, Johnson and McClarin, the work’s movement was choreographed in collaboration with Ni’Ja Whitson. Johnson teaches at City Colleges of Chicago. McClarin is a writer, activist and pioneer in Chicago Underground House Dance culture. Whitson is an interdisciplinary artist. 

“House” music is a reflection of disco, gospel, funk, rhythm ‘n blues, punk, new wave, Euro-pop, salsa, Afro-beat and industrial percussion (synthesizers, electronic percussion, etc.). Chicago House disc jockey Jo de Presser’s live set in “The Sweet Goddess Project” creates the sonic backdrop. 

“The Sweet Goddess Project” premiered late last year at Chicago’s Experimental Station, an independent, not-for-profit incubator of innovative cultural projects. For more information, visit www.honeypotperformance.com/performance-projects/sweetgoddess-2010/

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $12 for seniors and Northwestern students with IDs. For advance tickets, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/217376. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door prior to both of the concerts.

Topics: Campus Life