SPEAK By Kendra Kimbrough Barnes

By Kendra Kimbrough Barnes


I am both inspired by and gracious for the opportunity to be a Winter Artist in Residence at CounterPULSE. I have been creating work for over 13 years and realize, that just as in life, there is never a time that an artist does not need support. The moment I stepped into the studio for my first rehearsal I knew I was standing on fertile ground that would help nurture and hone my creativity while working on this piece.

What happens when one begins to re-trace his/her steps home and gets lost? One may randomly begin to point in various directions muttering “home is that way, right?” When I first heard this question, it struck me deep—to the core. I realized I had never had this experience of not knowing which direction would lead me back home. An immediate fear came over me as I empathized with this person. The more I thought about it, the more I made associations with the metaphor and how loaded the word home is for people. So I decided to begin by chronicling the innocence, genius, tragedy and rebirth of an imaginative boy. This is the story of Eli, the boy with magical powers. Unbeknownst to him, he gains strength in these powers by playing with a soccer ball. As he grows older, he turns to a life headed for ultimate destruction. It is not long before his mind ponders different ideas of home, retracing steps, questioning what is home, recalling his upbringing, deciding which direction to go.

There is so much to talk about around this topic of imprisonment and home and I find myself challenged to stay true to what I want to say and not focus on what I think others are expecting me to say. What I love about being able to do this investigation at CounterPULSE is that it allows me to challenge myself but not be confined by site-specific work. Immediately I began a whole new approach to how I was creating. Knowing that I have the support needed to bring things that will embellish my piece, I am inspired to try new set-design and multi-media concepts. I am very excited to be working with dancer/architect Shelley Davis to help frame the work and give the audience an immediate experience from the moment they walk through the door. Ears will be adorned by the magical sounds of “The Sounds of Boon” and Delina Brooks, who will create an original sound score for this piece as an important part of accurately telling the story. As we begin collaborating we keep in mind that we are aiming to touch people’s lives by sharing intimate feelings through musical and choreographic creations.

Excerpt of Text from Home is That Way?

“Not knowing what to say is a hard place to be. Not knowing what to do is even harder, in my opinion. One thing I can’t imagine is how it feels to actually be incarcerated and quite frankly I never want to know. But what I do know is how it feels to be a person on the outside that worries loves and cares for someone behind bars. What I tend to think about is the core of that person, the good that exudes from that person and I question–what happened? What led to the moment in time that was the marker for error?–the moment that said “wrong way” but all alarms were ignored. I also know the humiliation felt when visiting my loved one as officers mundanely go through bureaucratic procedures with a smug look of no concern on their faces, thinking less of me as a person for visiting someone who is locked up. Do they know who I am? Do they know that is my brother? My flesh and blood?! Painful admissions–painful acknowledgements–painful realizations–pain period. Where does the pain go and where does it come from? Underneath the layers of protection must have been a solid core of pain–that is my resolve. Seeing that pain is uncomfortable but necessary–now what do I do with it?”

This article appeared in the April 2010 issue of In Dance.

Producer, Choreographer, Performer, Instructor, Freelance Arts Administrator, Kendra Kimbrough Barnes is the director of K*STAR*PRODUCTIONS, founded in 1996, which serves as a performing arts-presenting organization for the Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble (KKDE) and co-presenter of the Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now.