About Cynthia Oliver

2015 + 2016 + 2017 Lab Artist: Cynthia Oliver

cynthia oliver 2015

A woman of Caribbean descent, Cynthia Oliver's work is a mélange of dance theatre and spoken word that incorporates textures of Caribbean performance with African and American sensibilities. She is a former dancer with numerous companies, including the David Gordon Pick Up Co., Ronald Kevin Brown/Evidence, and Bebe Miller Company. In addition to being a performer and choreographer, Oliver is an accomplished scholar with an ongoing research interest in the black female subject. She has published works in anthologies, exhibition booklets, the Movement Research Journal, and Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Her book, Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean, was published by University Press of Mississippi in 2009.

Having spent the majority of her career looking at and offering insights into women's worlds, in 2015 she turned her attention to the male gender to discover another sensibility in a new work, Virago-Man Dem. In support of Oliver’s research in 2015, VPL created a discussion series through individual conversations and workshops with black men living in southeastern Vermont. Oliver worked with community members along with performer Niall Jones to investigate how they embody and "perform" the masculine.

Without resorting to stereotypes, Virago-Man Dem strives to locate the nuances, challenges, ambiguities and (un)certainties of masculinity and ask questions of race in a variety of communities that may differ. In their residency in July 2016, Oliver, along with four dancers and composer John Jennings dug further into the complexities of masculine representation in performance, and presented a work-in-progress to VPL audiences.

This year, Cynthia Oliver returns as one of our 2017 Lab Artists to continue her work. Join us, April 7th for her Artist Talk: Performing Arts and Social Practice, and again in early June for the much-anticipated preview of Virago-Man Dem. Please visit our Events listings for more information.

Since 2006, VPL has hosted over 80 residencies