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M Cynthia Oliver PhD

Profile picture for M Cynthia  Oliver PhD

Contact Information

Dance Department
907 1/2 W Nevada
M/C 039
uiuc campus mail, IL 00001

Additional Campus Affiliations

CAS Professor, Center for Advanced Study
Professor, African American Studies
Professor, Gender and Women's Studies

Creative/Performing Interests

I am interested in secrets, in the spaces between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Intrigued by women’s worlds and the ways we negotiate complicated lives, I investigate these interests physically through movement that explores gesture and the transitory spaces between departure and arrival. My movement is vigorous, sometimes quirky, yet always fully embodied. I use voice and sound in experimental and guttural ways. In my work, choreography and text are intricately intertwined. One cannot exist without the expression of the other. They are a poetic mix of physicality and spoken word, and together they complete a picture.

My aesthetic voice is one located between borders, between and across social, political, economic, gendered, and national boundaries of blackness, of Caribbean-ness, American and African-ness, of womanhood, and the complicated navigation of the human condition. My work plays with the negotiation of the world in which we live from multiple perspectives. Topics I have explored range from the metaphysics of Afro-Caribbean belief and reality, race and the language of fashion, death and mourning, to madness, womanhood, transnationalism and Caribbean mythology. The Caribbean figures greatly in what I do, as it is often the source of my inspiration. It is the place where I became a woman and an artist. It is a place of fascinating contradictions and diversity.

Because of the diversity of people, ideas, and issues in my life and work, I am committed to interdisciplinarity. I am interested in total theatre and inclusivity. I work with a diverse group of artists. They are part of the rich world in which I live and are what make my work rich. I believe the job of art is to express points of view that cause one to pause, to consider and reconsider one’s position/s, and especially to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I believe art, in its clearest expression, demonstrates a difference and simultaneous unity of experience. I want to get dirty, acknowledge demons, hail the angels, tell secrets, question and celebrate conflicted, complicated, glorious lives fully lived.

Recent Publications

Oliver, C. (2020). My Voice, My Practice: Choreographing Black Personhood. In P. Brookes (Ed.), My Voice, My Practice: Black Dance Serendipity.

Oliver, C. (2018, Mar 5). They Say it is Heaven.

Oliver, C. (2017). Epiphanic Moments: Dancing Politics. In R. J. Kowal, G. Siegmund, & R. Martin (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics (pp. 99-116). Oxford University Press.

Oliver, C. (2017). Laurie Carlos’ Breath Dance. (Dance and Dancing ed.) Girls Like US.

Oliver, C., Oliveiro, V., Cyrus, D., Gonzalez, J., Jones, N. N., & Whitson, NJ. (2017). Virago-Man Dem: World Premiere. Performance, Brooklyn Academy of Music.

View all publications on Illinois Experts