Jasmine Powell: Approximation of a Woman 

Friday, May 17, 8 p.m., $10

Hayti Heritage Center, Durham

What is the cost of vulnerability when being black and a woman in the United States are already spaces of systemic precarity? Choreographer and dancer Jasmine Powell explores a range of vulnerable realities through poetry and dance in Approximation of a Woman, which premieres at Hayti Heritage Center on Friday.

Powell is joined by dancers Jaylun Moore, Keisha Wall, and Kristin Taylor Duncan in four solos—“Common Law Wife,” “Skinned Rose Flesh,” “She Walks with Bird,” and “Chokecherry Tree”—all inspired by the late Tiffany Austin’s poetry. In 2017, Austin approached Powell about working together, but Austin passed away before the collaboration was realized. After taking time away from the work, Powell returned to honor her collaborative vision with Austin.

“So as much as Tiffany is not in the show, her words are in the show, and her voice is in the show. Her spirit is throughout the entire show, and, through that, we channel four specific women,” Powell says.

Approximation of a Woman is Powell’s second Durham Independent Dance Artists, following 2016’s Shadows Chasing Light.

“DIDA fits because I’m taking dance into places where dance isn’t normally seen. I know that Hayti is a historical landmark because I grew up going to it as well,” Powell says. “I’m working as a bridge to bring dance to the other side of the tracks; to bring those who follow DIDA to other parts of Durham, and to bring us all together and say that dance can happen anywhere. It’s OK to go out of your comfort zone to see it.”

Though these stories are not Powell’s own, she has found pieces of herself in all of them. She offers them as meditations on black women’s vulnerabilities and invites audience members—no matter their gender, race, or ethnicity—to witness and experience.

“From that experience, you will ponder, and from your pondering, you will question, and then you will have a conversation,” Powell says. Join her for a talkback session immediately following the show. 


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