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Cynthia Oliver

Profile picture for Cynthia Oliver

Contact Information

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

CAS Professor

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

Oliver, C. (Choreographer), Cyrus, D. (Performer), Gonzalez, J. (Performer), Whitson, NJ. (Performer), & Jones, N. N. (Performer). (2017). Virago-Man Dem: Dance Center of Columbia College. Performance

View all publications on Illinois Experts