Directed by Ethan Payne, Brian Foster
From the world renowned Wideman-Davis Dance Company and award-winning filmmakers Ethan Payne and Brian Foster, We Dance is a love story, deconstructed and distilled into its most elemental ingredients. Dreams. Memories. Family. And environments. Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis take us from Chicago to Montgomery, from New York to the point where their lives meet and become one. Along the way, they honor and signify on Black American art, poetry, and literature. They offer commentary on the importance of movement and migration to Black American identity, lived experience, and consciousness. And they show how all of our stories are kept, in the places we’ve been, and in the food we eat, and in the dreams that we so steadfastly chase.
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B. Brian Foster, Ph.D. is a writer and sociologist from Mississippi. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently works as Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. His book I Don’t Like the Blues: Race, Place, and the Backbeat of Black Life (University of North Carolina Press) tells the story of blues development and Black community life in the Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale. Brian currently serves as co-editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and is working on a collaborative book project, entitled Ghosts of Segregation with award-winning photographer Rich Frishman. Foster has also directed an award-winning short film and written for a number of outlets, including CNN, Esquire, Ford Foundation, Washington Post, and Veranda.
Ethan is a documentary filmmaker and photographer based in Atlanta, Ga. His work has been featured in Pitchfork, Stereogum, Oxford American, ArtsATL, Appalshop, Southern Foodways Alliance, and the Bitter Southerner. He plays music with his band Easter Island and loves telling stories about the forgotten, tossed away south. His award-winning short documentaries have made international festival rounds and his first feature length documentary “The Green Flash” is currently in post-production.
The guiding and framing idea of We Dance is “deconstruction.” It is a deconstructed love story—wherein we present the component parts (i.e., the stories of Tanya and Thaddeus) first, then arrive at the whole (i.e., their shared story). It is a deconstructed food story, where we focus, first, on ingredients and food preparation and, ultimately, on the entire dish. We Dance is also a deconstructed dance/movement story, where we focus the most on singular movements, a stylistic decision easily crystallized in the chapter titles—“Spin,” “Rise,” and “Hold.” The theme of deconstruction also shaped our approach to storycraft. One might treat each chapter as an individual story, wherein they tell a story that is self-contained. One might also see the chapters as deeply interconnected, so much so that the last line of chapter three (also the namesake of the film)—“We Dance”—flows into the first line of chapter one—“From West of No Return.”
The aforementioned chapter titles also hint at another defining characteristic of the film: the use of double and triple meaning. Each of the titles allude to movements that might be associated with food preparation or dance; and the chapters are also analogs for the ways that Black Americans have had to “move” in order to survive and thrive amidst discrimination, dispossession, and so on.