St. Paul-based performance company Brownbody presents its latest original skating performance “Tracing Sacred Steps” June 3-5 at Highland Ice Arena in St. Paul. Creative director Deneane Richburg founded Brownbody partly in response to her own experience as a long-time ice skater growing up in the Twin Cities.
“I was told to check my blackness at the door essentially,” explained Richburg, “sometimes explicitly, and sometimes very subtly, and in kind of subversive ways. I remember being told by judges and officials not to wear white because it made the brownness of my skin more pronounced against the white ice.”
Brownbody is grounded in African diasporic perspectives which it uses to both disrupt biased narratives and build artistic expression. The show “Tracing Sacred Steps” explores Black liberation through “Ring Shout,” a counterclockwise sacred circle dance that was performed by enslaved Africans.
“Ring shout is really about reclaiming one's humanity,” said Richburg. “So to be able to reclaim my humanity on the ice, to be able to connect to ancestors, and to do that in a community of other really beautiful and amazing Black skating dance artists is coming full circle and healing and addressing some of the pain and the trauma that I experienced coming up skating as a Black girl competitively in the Twin Cities.”
Deneane says the performances are open to the general public on June 3 and 4, but that June 5 is an intentionally Black centered space - though no one will be turned away. She also says she doesn't want finances to be a barrier in attending; visit the company’s website to find out more.