Pay Homage to Ancestors, Reverence to Body
by Patricia Ngnoumen
students gathered in Warner Main Stage last weekend to witness a
spectacular dance performance produced by senior Dominique Atchison.
Pass Me Not was an arrangement of eight individual pieces that dealt
with personal issues that have affected Atchisons life.
purpose in calling the show Pass Me Not was an attempt to remember
and honor her ancestry, particularily the women in her family. The
idea of the show came to me at the end of last semester, and it
became clearer after I did some research on my family history this
summer, Atchison said. The phrase Pass Me Not
is even more meaningful to Atchison, as it is a hymn that was sung
to her by her grandmother. As both a hymn that has been passed through
many generations and a performance, Pass Me Not evokes a sense of
community and collectivity. It becomes a venue through which she
is able to unite people, which in this case includes the dialogue
between the performers and the audience.
You can tell that all the participants worked extremely hard
to make Dominiques vision come through, Sophomore Aaliyah
Bilal said. It was a renewing experience. I felt affirmed in this
The audience remained silent and attentive as they watched the first
dance scene unravel before their eyes. The dancers dressed in white
robes were portrayed picking cotton on a plantation field. Atchison
explains that the scene is a representation and acknowledgement
of her grandmother, who was a sharecropper. The simplicity and fluidity
of this piece left the audience with a peaceful vibe, while at the
same time addressing a very painful history and telling a story
of survival. In acknowledging and remembering her grandmothers
life in the piece, she was able to not only honor her, but to also
honor the experiences of all her ancestors and elders.
audience members admired Atchisons bravery for opening up
to a public crowd. I felt it was very empowering to the whole
audience, said Senior Sarah Goldman. I thought it was
amazing how Dominique was able to open up to the audience. It takes
tremendous courage, because it is such a vulnerable position.
The third piece included a song titled Change Gon Come.
Initially sung by Sam Cooke, this piece was a dedication to Atchisons
mother. Her beautiful rendition of Change Gon Come
was inspiring, as it delivered a message of hope and perseverance.
Atchison carefully selected each piece to honor and acknowledge
important people in her life. She also used Warner as a site where
she could express herself, something she succeeded in doing in the
piece Whos the Nigger on the Bus? Here, Atchison
was able to share her childhood experiences with racism. That
piece was effective, senior Naima Bond said in response. It
was very personal. Being a black woman, I felt like I could relate
to her feelings and experience. Most people can think of an experience
where they felt targeted or alone.
ability to bring together an entire audience shows that she was
triumphant in communicating her message. The next two pieces titled
Forgiveness and Take it Back are both equally
personal and healing. For example, in Forgiveness, Atchison
recognizes the parallels of the presence of women in her family,
and the absence of men.
the shows intermission, the dancers left the audience mesmerized
after their finale, Boogie Down Production. Atchinson
explained that she was born in the South Bronx in the 80s,
the same time and place where hip-hop began. She wanted to express
her concern with the way mass media has negatively portrayed hip-hop.
By showing a beautiful side of hip-hop, she was able to challenge
those negative stereotypes and connotations in Boogie Down
second half of the show was a performance by the Dance Diaspora
cast, accompanied by the musical members of Ilu Aiye. Last year,
the members of Dance Diaspora had the opportunity to travel to Cuba,
with their mentor and advisor Adenike Sharpley. There, they where
were able to learn traditional form and dance techniques. Thus,
Dance Diaspora Goes to Cuba, was a collection of dances
from Matanzas, Cuba. Atchison attributed much of the performances
success to Sharpley. All this would have never happened without
Adenike, Atchison said. At the beginning, it [the idea]
all seemed so big, but she helped me narrow it down and make it
more personal and valuable to me.
Pass Me Not is a story of survival and celebration. While it may
be a personal response to Atchisons life, it also has a parallel
impact on the lives of others. The show served soothing relief to
many, because Atchison was able to raise collective feelings of
inspiration, hope and joy through her work. The performers, both
dancers and musicians, were equally dedicated in establishing Atchisons
vision. We (Dance Diaspora) came together even more during
tech week, and we worked very hard, junior and Dance Diaspora
dancer Taye Amegboh said. We really united. I began to understand
more and more what the purpose of the show was.