About The Artistic Director, Maria Bauman-Morales
Muscles. Beads of sweat. Exertion. Inversion. Carving out selfhood. These images and ideas are linked for me. As a woman dancer, a person of color, a southern not-quite-belle who grew up poor, and a queer person, clear ideas of physical labor, beauty, and body presentation are each held in my every movement.
I am a multi-disciplinary artist and community organizer from Jacksonville, FL. My choreography for MBDance is based on physical and emotional power, desire for equity, and fascination with intimacy. I bring the same tenets to organizing to undo racism in the arts and beyond with ACRE (Artists Co-creating Real Equity), the grassroots body I co-founded. In particular, my dance work centers the non-linear and linear stories and bodies of queer people of color onstage.
I use multiple genres to create and to add to the world, including visual art, singing, writing, and my artistic engine: dance. The popular notion of a “neutral body,” often described in contemporary dance classes, does not exist in my experience. Rather I create from storied bodies, mythological bodies, bodies-in-creation, and bodies-as-manifestos. My body, and the other bodies I dance with are testaments to survival, mentorship, community care, and defiance. We are healthy in spite of this country’s dismal track record of health disparity across race and disregard for queer wellness. We are alive in spite of continued campaigns of genocide. We walk freely although there is a known strategy intent on capturing and caging us (mass incarceration). Although we are publicly and consistently called ugly in various ways, or invisibilized (ie. Bill O’Reilly’s recent public statement about Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair and the widespread use of pink pussy hats to symbolize feminism, which erased black, purple, and brown pussies and therefore women of color), we touch and hold each other with recognition, respect, and tenderness. Every time I dance onstage and every time I choreograph a gesture, a caress, or a stomp I am keenly aware of these ongoing body narratives playing out internally and being broadcast to and co-created by audience members.
I am happy to have been recently honored with a Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance (Skeleton Architecture). I recently also received the Beth Silverman-Yam Social Action Award and the Katherine Dunham Award for scholarly/creative research. Currently, I am an Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange, as I was in 2017 as well. In 2017, I was also Community Action Artist in Residence at Gibney Dance Center. Among other honors, I earned 2015 and 2014 CUNY Dance Initiative Residency Awards, 2012-13 and 2009-10 Harlem Stage Fund for New Work via The Jerome Foundation, and a 2010-11 DTW/NYLA Studio Series.
In New York, my work has been showcased at Dixon Place, BRICstudios, and DTW (now NY Live Arts), Harlem Stage, 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center, the Kumble Theater, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!), WOW Café Theater, and SummerStage NYC. I’ve also shared work across the U.S. and in Singapore. My art is at the same time a poem, a manifesto, a softening, and a beckon. Noted dance writer Eva Yaa Asantewaa described it thus: “As a choreographer Bauman expresses humanistic insight with the blend of strength, suppleness and flow that her training in capoeira has given her.”
I’ve danced with Urban Bush Women, Nia Love, Adele Myers and Dancers, Angela’s Pulse, Mendi + Keith Obadike, Jumatatu Poe, and jill sigman/thinkdance, and apprenticed with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance. During my eight-year tenure with Urban Bush Women I originated multiple roles, and eventually served as Associate Artistic Director.
As a cultural organizer, I partner with various kinds of groups to lift up important social issues and calls for justice via art. Partners for whom I facilitate dance-based community engagement workshops include Chorus America, Ramapo College, and Wesleyan University, and I helped create cultural campaigns with various locals of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). I am a trainer with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, specifically working on Understanding and Undoing Racism workshops for arts communities; a WOW Café Theatre collective member (theater space by/for women and transgender artists); and a founding member of the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts Working Group (NOCD-NY). Currently, I am co-facilitating 651 ARTS’s Home in the Time of Brooklyn, a six-month iterative convening of Black Brooklyn-based artists investigating how to create and strengthen artistic homes, with Okwui Okpokwasili.
I have played Capoeira with Mestres Rony, Ralil, and Foca for over a decade and that practice informs my approach to dancing. I am also an accomplished dance improviser, having studied various approaches with Merián Soto, Kathy Westwater, Jawole Zollar, Lynda Davis, Curt Haworth, and Dianne McIntyre. My training includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance and English from the Florida State University and a Masters of Fine Arts (Fellowship) from Temple University.