Trigger warning – mention of trauma
Next month Alethia Antonia, graduate of London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS) and The Place’s Work Place artist, will step into the Robin Howard Theatre to perform her first full-length work Inscribed in “Me”, a piece that questions the complex experiences of Black womxn and bears witness to a continuous pursuit for healing and self-authorship. Ahead of the performance, we chatted to Alethia to find out more about the work and her journey from LCDS to The Place’s black-box theatre.
Alethia Antonia has always been a dancer. “I was definitely one of those kids dancing around my bedroom to Beyonce with a hairbrush,” she muses. “When I was 14, I took things a little further and started street dance classes at my local dance school which I enjoyed. A few years later I saw an audition for Retina Youth Company in Nottingham and fell in love with contemporary dance. It’s safe to say I never looked back!” she continues.
Returning to The Place
Alethia graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2017. She reflects on her time at the school as a place where her interest in choreography, performance and research was able to develop. “I threw myself into what was going on at the school and learnt a lot during the process. Growing-up, and due to personal circumstances, I couldn’t follow the traditional school route. But being at The Place exposed me to new things and enabled me to explore my identity.”
Alethia has worked with an array of internationally recognised dance companies and continues to learn and be inspired by them. Aside from performing with companies including Russell Maliphant Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and James Cousins Company, she has made commissions for Phoenix Dance Theatre. Now, her key focus is leaning into and exploring the type of work that she wants to make and perform in.
Inscribed in “Me” is Alethia’s first full-length solo. “As the piece is about healing and touches on trauma, making Inscribed in “Me” has been a challenging process because it’s super personal,” says Alethia. The idea of self-authoring is central to the work. Alethia sees it as a rewriting identity within dance, in regards to the representation of concepts of blackness and femininity as well as individual autobiographical content. “Sometimes we see our baggage – trauma, stereotypes, or internalised ideas of ourselves – as separate to us and at other times part of us. And whilst we have some control over them, in other ways you do lose authorship. This is what my solo is about: learning to find authorship and identify a way to accept the things we must carry…”
What can the audience expect?
Inscribed in “Me” will be a visceral journey exploring the weight of personal, historical and collective trauma through movement, voice and music. “There is something about this piece that won’t follow a linear narrative,” says Alethia. “Inscribed in “Me” explores authoring my own stories. The piece is also layered with different textures, including singing which is part of my practice.”
“As a Black womxn, I can often be pigeon-holed into dancing a certain way,” continues Alethia, “And I think my practice is very much about trying to exist in multiple places. There’s something central to my practice about resisting stereotypes and singularity, and existing in these places of possibility and multiplicity.”
Much of Alethia’s dance work and research into feminine blackness, authorship, gender and mental health feeds into her PhD at De Montfort University, where Alethia is exploring self-authoring feminine blackness to develop decolonised practice methodologies within British contemporary dance. “Coincidentally, I would say that these research interests and touchpoints started here at London Contemporary Dance School,” she says.
Alethia is excited to return to The Place to take the role as performer and choreographer of Inscribed in “Me”. “Choreography has always been an outlet and a way to understand the world”, she explains. “I am inspired by my surroundings, whether that be through learning how the world works or understanding how people think and feel things. The way I understand art is that it’s about encapsulating the things that can’t be said in a way that feels tangible. I guess this is what inspired me to make Inscribed in “Me”; in the sense that I am creating opportunities for people to have certain experiences. I know that I always need them.”