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Artist Bio

Johari Mayfield is a dancer, choreographer, activist, healer, and ACE certified personal trainer living in New York City. After training extensively in ballet with Sylvester Campbell, she received a scholarship to the Ailey School, where she studied for over two years. She has been a performer in NYC with Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Joan Miller’s Dance Players, and Peggy Choy Dance Company. As a choreographer, her work has been presented at several different venues including HERE Arts Center, The Gatehouse at Aaron Davis Hall, 45 Bleecker Theater, and Dance Theatre Workshop (now New York Live Arts). She received her ACE certification in 1998 and, since then, has been an avid personal trainer, providing both group and private instruction for a diverse range of movers.

In addition to dance, fitness, and choreography, Johari has authored two comic books: Wildcard, written with visual artist Teylor Smirl, and Wildlife. Wildcard was publicly presented in January 2011 as part of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture’s conference “The State of African American and African Diaspora Studies:  Methodology, Pedagogy, and Research.” She has also conducted research on the therapeutic potential of creative movement training in treating victims of sex trafficking. She self published Ayana and Jamal Dance Presents, a coloring book that addresses the need for children to remember the importance of movement and healthy food choices. Johari’s community outreach initiatives have included children’s workshops on healthy eating at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, and movement and fitness with Girls Education and Mentoring Service (GEMS), an organization committed to empowering survivors of sexual exploitation and Reveal NYC, a nonprofit organization that encourages female survivors of domestic violence in self-care. Most recently in October 2017, she travelled to Uganda as a part of Lend a Hand Uganda- USA's team of volunteers to enroll students in a lunch program, build a latrine and a well so that students can grow and thrive in a healthy environment.  

 

Artist Statement

"Double Dutch meets Martha Graham, meets African dance, meets Beat-boxing” best describes my current eclectic alchemy of dance, theatre, music, and digital media. But those are containers, words, images. They are not the viscera that fill them. To understand the living, moving inside of my process, we must watch children. Frustrating, non-linear, captivating, and eventually so wise, children are at the heart of my artistic momentum.

Teaching children requires me to be alert and open to imagination as the ruling vehicle. I attempt to transcend judgment, fear, linear narratives, the deadly trifecta of beginning/middle/end, and the oppressive binary of good or bad. I strive to take this magic and wield it to create new spaces for myself and my collaborators. I invite spontaneity to spring forth, as I hold on or let go, to begin with fresh eyes every single time.

 

 

Works

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A mix of burlesque, contemporary dance, text, music and social commentary, "A woman you call" unpacks the container of “woman” through a satirical lens. Where does she belong? Is she good or evil? What species of woman is she? The urge to explain and define a woman, especially a black woman, through science, religion, culture, power dynamics, and sexuality is cracked open in this short hybrid work. 

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Blending movement, narrative, and technology, The Sea Inside is inspired by the myth of Echo and Narcissus – a story about rejected love and love for one’s self.  A duet for two women, this work summons the relationship between the choreographer and her mother as fodder for unearthing the effect of memory on the evolution of the personal body.

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The Venus Hottentot was a South African black woman in the late 18th Century, displayed in a cage in the UK for her for her "abnormal" African genitalia and buttocks. She eventually died in the cage, and was autopsied by Napoleon’s Surgeon General in front of an audience. This work, adaptable for solo or group (three women, one man), glares at the history of female trafficking and fetishization of the black female body. A pointed, shameless uncovering of this story, and how it exists in varied forms to this day, “The Venus Riff” is a searing portrait of a woman, many women, facing unimaginable inhumanity, and what it takes to survive. It traces the cruel tracks of science and religion to their ultimate debasing ends.