Flow: Embracing Nature’s Wisdom Through Art

By Conni McKenzie

October 9, 2023, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE
A female dancer dressed poses confidently on a rocky hill.
Photo by Bay Chaconas
[ID: A confident young African American woman striking a dance pose atop a rocky peak on a partially sunny day.]

Editor’s Note: Conni McKenzie is a Spring 2023 CA$H grantee. This article highlights her funded activities and vision.

Imagine you are walking along a long winding path, stretching for miles, over hills and through forests. As you finally settle into a comfortable spot, you pause to take a deep, refreshing breath of air. In that moment you realize something profound—you can breathe deeply, and you have nowhere else to be. You can tackle challenges, but you can also find solace in rest. Right here, right now, you’re fully present in this moment, and this moment is just for you. These are a few lessons I’ve learned from my encounters with nature. 

Flow originated from two primary motivations. First and foremost, it was born out of my yearning to establish deeper alignment in my daily life. Second, I desired to converge my dance and digital practice into something that concretely expressed what mattered to me.  

Outside of dance practice, I thoroughly enjoy outdoor travel and have documented my experiences through photography and video. Over the course of several years I have developed an archive of thousands of photos, videos and stories from around the world. But 99% of what I have captured has never been shared with anyone. Flow aims to reveal a portion of these archives, coupled with accompanying narratives and an integrated sound design. 

A female dancer performs on a dimly lit stage.
[Photo by Danny Hernandez. ID: A young African American female dancer reaches her arm over her head, dressed in a white oversized shirt, blue tank top, and black pants. Taken during her performance of “Intuition and Motion” at the ODC Theater.]

Flow is an immersive experience that offers a meditative journey uniquely designed by and with Black people in mind—an uncommon occurrence in the art world. While Flow can offer something to everyone,​​ it’s important to recognize that conventional narratives about nature frequently omit the experiences of Black individuals. It’s essential to remember that all people can benefit from connecting with nature, and this project emphasizes that perspective. 

Flow also aims to bridge the gap between nature and those who may seldom experience it. The broader context of access to nature in North America, particularly in relation to our colonial history and resulting disparities, underpins the project’s aspiration: to immerse individuals, especially those with limited access or transportation challenges, in the therapeutic embrace of nature. 

Flow will unfold within a three-room exhibit, delving into digital immersion through the mediums of photography, video and sound. Visitors will have the opportunity to settle in comfortably while contemplating thought-provoking prompts displayed throughout the exhibit. Additionally, on five evenings I will be joined by three talented performers for a unique premiere of Flow, integrating dance performances and engaging dialogues that encourage audiences to consider how they can invite more flow into their lives. 

A female dancer dressed casually bends backward in front of rocks.
[Photo by Bay Chaconas. ID: A young African American woman bends backward against a backdrop of rocky terrain on a partly sunny day. She gazes upwards toward the sky and wears casual attire.]

I invite people to come to the exhibition to discover something new about themselves. In the midst of urban life, our exhibit offers a unique opportunity to compress the profound effects of extended time in nature into a brief yet impactful experience. As the Artistic Director, my goal is to create a space where everyone can find their own meaning. I appreciate the diversity of attendees and their varied perspectives, as they bring richness and depth to the project’s overall impact.  

Nature serves as a powerful reminder of our capacity for stillness and vitality, as well as the inherent impermanence of existence. Water, in particular, emerges as a symbol that links us to our inner workings and the intricate chaos of life itself. Through the Flow exhibition and performances, my aim is to introduce individuals to these concepts and, for those who already possess a connection, further deepen their understanding of the interplay between our inner flow and the flow of nature. 


Flow Exhibition & Performance
Wed-Sat, October 4-15, 2023
Paul Dresher Studio, Oakland

This article appears in the Fall 2023 issue of In Dance.

Conni McKenzie is a versatile dancer from the New York metropolitan area. Her award-winning film, “Set Me Free,” was featured in the 2021 San Francisco Dance Film Festival, and she has directed several other shorts that have been showcased internationally. Conni is currently a resident artist with New Performance Traditions as part of the Dresher Ensemble Artist Residency (D.E.A.R.) Residency and with BoxoPROJECTS. @lady_dancelot