yaTande Whitney V. Hunter, PhD (he/him/his) Chicago-born, Philadelphia-based artist committed to #cultureascatalyst. With his co-created, NEA supported Denizen Arts Project, his work centers around cultivating individual and communal spirit through dance-performance, education and curation. Dr. yaTande’s choreographic and performance art works have been presented through Kumble Theater, La Mama, Grace Exhibition Space, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival and in the streets of NYC, Chicago and Detroit. He has worked in performance with Martha Graham Dance Company, Rod Rodgers, Reggie Wilson, Martha Clarke, Fiona Templeton, Daria Faïn and Robert Kocik, John Jesurun, Kankouran West African Dance Company, Yass Hakoshima, Najwa Dance Corps, and others. He has also directed performance collectives under Hunter Dance Theater and Whitney Hunter [Medium], was a Movement Research Artist in Residence (2013-15), a founding member/curator of Social Health Performance Club, and is currently co-creator of Denizen Arts with his life partner, theatre artist, Jude Sandy.
Dr. yaTande has been recipient of creation and exhibition commissions and grants from Providence Arts, Culture and Tourism; New York State Council for the Arts; Puffin Foundation; Harlem Stages; Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center; Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival; Lumen Festival and others. Recent actions and performances include 9Roads; Walk the (pink) Elephant (in-progress); BIRTH RITE; OPEN PRACTICE; Body Count: Counting the Dead, #101 with Preach R Sun; D.R.O.M.P, Airing Dirty Laundry with Andre M. Zachery; 1st American Shapist House… and others.
Dr. yaTande has taught nationally and internationally at Performance Garage, Peridance Center, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, Harlem School of the Arts, The Ailey School, Dance Institute of Washington, Centro Nacional de Danza Contemporánea (MX), LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and as an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University. His academic degrees include: B.F.A in Theatre Arts/Dance (Howard University), M.F.A in New Media Arts and Performance (Long Island University), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts (2013 David Driskell Fellow). yaTande serves as Assistant Professor of Dance and Coordinator of the African Diaspora Dance Series at Temple University where he researches the convergences of Afro-Spiritualit(ies) and the Africanist aesthetic in contemporary dance/performance.
Afro-shamanic journeying, conjuring embodied authenticities
At almost three decades of professional life performing, choreographing, directing and teaching, I continue to unearth layers of my artistic practice, particularly as it regards dance/performance as a spiritual, social and political endeavor. Through this forge of creative experience, I define my role as a contemporary dance/performance artist as being towards the activation of the catalytic possibilities of art.
My deep interest and investigations into the intersections of the sacred and the secular (the spirituality of art and the art of spirituality) are grounded in a confluence of my formal engagements in indigenous African and diasporic spiritualities, contemporary performance practice, and global philosophic and theoretical approaches. These processes mingle and manifest corporeally in my work, involving ever-deepening, shamanic excavations of my diasporic African and queer identities and heritages. I am captivated by the fertile complexities of this hybridity, out of which new ideas arise and pre-established meanings are re-contextualized. Through live and mediated performance, installation and cultural curation, my work provides an opening into often over-looked and under-appreciated realities, and into opportunities for individual and communal actualization through witnessing and participation.
What I have discovered through this Afro-shamanic investigation of hybridity is that the activation of creative spirit, through collective bodily engagements, illuminates our individual depths and complexities and their relation to our larger communities and the families which define us. Conjuring this spirit together aligns us with our authentic selves, allowing us to be seen and to see, while unleashing our solidarity with the authenticity emergent in others. As a diasporic African, queer, cis-, same-gender-loving male, I experience how so many of us endure, yet work to overcome, oppressions intended to disrupt alignments of empowering authenticity and the catalytic spirit of whole populations of human beings. My perseverance in cultivating an Afro-shamanic, embodied art practice is my confrontation and rejection of these oppressions, an ongoing testimony to the power of the connective, catalytic spirit in which we all share.
My journeying into an Afro-Shamanic art practice forges forward. I know there is much more to learn, uncover and unleash, and I am committed to hearing and answering this call, as a medium of spirit and an activist of the radical connectivity of embodied authenticities.