Archiving: structures of absents 

Writing the application to be a part of this Siobhan Davies Studios Archiving Project was a painful experience. There was a sense of a wound that the dance piece, Truth and Transparency, had left because it was not performed more than three times. The wound was a kind of rift in reality: a tear to the tissue of my artistic presence.

Back in 2007 after the first performance of the work at Resolution!, The Place, I was told by dance field supporters directly this will not be shown more than a couple of times. The inference was that it did not adhere to what people would expect: a kind of back-handed compliment that the work was new and fresh and because of that would not be programmed. And so the reasons for the lack of engagement were explained to me:

  • I was advised as a Black-woman my choreography could not be programmed - there was no audience.
  • I was advised to 'use different dancers' if I wanted to keep going with it.
  • As a reason for why the work was not programmed a programmer asked if it was "really my work" - it was too masculine for a woman to have made! 
  • I was advised to apply to do research for a piece using martial arts!

These examples of the main thrust of feedback from producers and the dance decision-makers at the time reveal the climate for dance in the UK in 2007/8. A climate that meant my work was not centered but rather how people read my identity was the focus. The work was not engaged with on its own terms when I sought feedback and support. The wound was then the un-visibility of my artistic practice. I wrote about this in the chapter 'Narrating Spaces, in Black Women in Dance: Stepping out of the Barriers, edited by Pawlet Brookes

The wound was kept raw by the void into which the work was matured into. A space of emptiness that I had anticipated and assumed would be filled with response, engagement, discussion, and growth (positive and negative of course). As years passed this void experience left me wondering if the whole experience of making and presenting an artwork was imagined, blown out of proportion in my memory. 

Making this archive sutures memory: the archive makes my memory, and the importance of making the work from my own artistic growth, real. There really are videos, and documentation that exists beyond my embodied memory of doing/making the artwork. And even more heartening the other people involved also have a memory of the artwork. 

And so as I finish this archive I am left with wonders about archives. About empty spaces and absents. What is missing from the archive? Are archives only structures to weave across absents - to thread journeys of memory across what is missing? I wonder if archives are infrastructures to shape the gaps that define them. 

I wonder at how this artwork, Truth and Transparency,  is made more real by treating it as real - remembering it. As I found more and more memories (artifacts and conversations) I feel the man in Ralph Ellison's novel speaks for the choreography, the artwork, when he says "I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility." pg.7


Early movement explorations,  took place a choreography residency hosted by Dance NorthWest (2006)

Programme Notes 2006


One of two dance videos I made with support of Video Pool, Manitoba CA. This video 'Leaving' was part of a larger site-specific dance exploration for Truth and Transparency. This film was projected onto elevator doors that opened and closed to show the live dancer inside doing the same dance sequence. Both physical dancer and image (film) were interrupted by each other, the artwork was the combination or slippage between them 


Shirley Grierson 


Kylie Sudds 



I looked at how I could make work that relied on dark. I used projection which requires darkness for clarity to create the spaces on stage. Dancers could only be seen in the shadow of the interrupted light of the projection. I used white-outs rather than black-outs at moments of change in the work.

Throughout Ellison’s novel the word light can be read as a metaphor for the 'Western mainstream’ or US and European hegemony. The man in the novel is looking for light and at the end of the book he is living in the darkness of a basement using light he gets from tapping into other people’s power systems (Ellison, 2001). “Maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form…Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well…” (Ellison, 2001, pp. 6-7)

Using this metaphor of light for the Western mainstream, Ellison raises questions for me about the privileged observer of art to whom we must narrate ourselves into visibility: explaining ourselves into the light. As a Black, female presenting artist Ellison’s words resonate with me, ‘I am invisible and light confirms my reality’. I feel the affirmation the character in the novel makes ‘without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well...’, is Ellison sounding a warning against allowing yourself to only be defined by others.

Exploring during my choreographic process for this work I focused on how for light to exist it needs an object (a named thing). Light is only noticed as present through the objects it highlights, and through its absence elsewhere. For the piece Truth & Transparencychoreographed exploring how the dance could rely on darkness to be clear rather than light. Rather than making a work that relied on light I looked at how I could make work that relied on dark. I recontextulised my work in terms of dark instead of light. I used

projection which requires darkness for clarity to create the spaces on stage. Using projection on stage I created a space where dancers could only be seen in the shadow of the interrupted light of the projection. I used white-outs rather than black-outs at moments of change in the work. 

Part of the creative process of the work was my consideration of the exchange of power between visibility and light; and what is lost in the dance as we attempt to be recognised in the light. Physically I explored how light helps with vision but it is not vision. The work explores a ‘dialogue between light and consciousness’ (Olafur, Tuyl, & Broeker, 2004) how dance becomes visible on the stage.

Fabulation & Afro-Fabulations

Fabulation is the act/art of inventing or relating false or fantastic tales such as historical fiction that adds to or interjects events into history.

I have been thinking about Fabulation:

1) I was told Truth & Transparency was not performed many times or picked up to be produced because 'there was no audience for interest in Black Women choreographers. Or rather there was an interest but what I had made did not look like what a Black woman choreographer would make.  For me I see the generally recognised truth/history of who has the artistic ability to make 'fine art' as the fabulation?  In this my existence, what I do, have done, and how I am generally understood as contributing to dance works invents me differently than I see myself. Can I be remembered as an absent presence in the very history of dance which I use to define myself? My reality is registered as the shadowy nonexistent presence of absence. But my own history, the performance programmes my mum saves in a file under her bed, the stories I tell myself as I remember a piece of music or dance movement, that is my history while the non-presence of my practice in the mainstream that is the fabulation. 

The mainstream dance world of 2006/7 fabrication of me as a Black-women-choregrapher (a yet-to-be-determined identity with a yet-to-be-determined audience) hit up against my own narrative for my artistic practice. In this clash, my ability to have the support to make artwork becomes a determining factor for whose fantasy will become my history. This is about how we are projected onto: "so it isn't a matter of whether you wish to be the new... It is a question of who shall determine the direction of events." pg.307 

In the performance work, I use light projection which is the live projection of the dancers, I use shadow as dancers cast shadows on the fabric set and on the projections, and I use the flesh of the dancers' bodies themselves to create the multi-layered truth to one's presence. I notice how the watching eye is drawn to the projected images of the live dance as it is easier for the eye to process than watching the actual live dancers of who the projection is capturing. The work asks where is the dance? where is the dancer? what is the truth of the transparency of all these representations of the moment of the choreography?

2) Tavia Nyong'o's Afro-Fabulations: the Queer Drama of Black Life came into being a touchstone text as I have been thinking about this archive. Particularly, as I reflect on the multiple strands that bring the work into an archival reality.  Nyong'o writes that their book is a claim "that afro-fabulation is a theory and practice of black time and temporality" pg. 5.

Looking back on the work and thinking about what creative processes it left me with, I feel the exploration of the multiplicity of identity, projection, and truth of the moment has remained a key thread in my work. The notion of (afro) fabulation addresses and offers creative autonomy to the nonlinear understanding of time that multiplicity calls for.

Truth & Transparency engages with a multiplicity of representations through the interplay of dancers and projected light. The two dancers on stage represented the inner discussion of the single person while the third dancer moving the projections and light around the stage gave visual form to the different gazes of the two dancers on stage. The choreography was at the moments of encounter between gaze/recognition of form from the audience, dancers, and projected light. Nyong'o asks "could the poetics of afro-fabulation supplement, or even supplant, the politics of representation?"  pg.199

multi-camera film of 2007

performance at The Place (Resolution!)

project trailer 2007 

created to solicit performance bookings

front view camera footage of 2007

performance at The Place (Resolution!) 

The shifting shape of the stage: collective seeing

The fabric impacted on what could be seen of the choreography and what could be seen of the projections.

I wanted the audience to be aware they had a unique view. That was to know that if someone sitting somewhere else in the auditorium would be seeing different angles and exposures of the choreography. In the work, I am interested in what I call collaborative seeing. Rather than traditional Western Concert dance expectation that everyone will have the same experience (and if you don't you pay less for those seats!!). I wanted the audience to feel they were a part of a bigger whole - they had a unique view. I was thinking of extended family traditions where people in a group have different roles and perspectives. I wanted the audience to be aware they were viewing and interpreting a version of the truth.  Together, across the audience, the audience was also participating in the collective seeing of how the dance unfolds. 

Programme Notes 2007


inspired by Ralph Ellison's novel 'Invisible Man', is a twenty minute piece with four dancers, music composed by Michael “Mikey J” Asante, lighting design Jonathan Samuels and set by Stuart Peverill. This piece uses dance and film to explore ideas raised about projection and identity. Two dancers representing a man’s mind fight for identity against the projection of persona from outside. Both dancers and projected-light solicit space and shape in their bid to claim the eye of the audience and in so doing find recognition. Truth and Transparency was commissioned by Dance NorthWest with support from Arts Council England. Research support from ADAD Trailblazer Award. The work was also awarded the Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award.

Choreography and concept 

Adesola Akinleye



Michael "Mikey J" Asante

Performance Artists

Sean Graham 

Daniel Baird

Lucy Howlett 



Jonathan Samuels

Set creation 

Stuart Peverill

Promo DVD edit

Satu Tuomisto




“Adesola Akinleye’s choreography was angular, linear and precise, balancing poise with masculinity. Sean Graham and Daniel Baird… danced with a touching intimacy.” Anthony Psaila 


Talent-to-watch Adesola Akinleye’s multi-layered duet… played sober, complex games with reflection and shadow, light and darkness, reality and illusion…” Donald Hutera

Performances at

Resoltution! [The Place: Robin Howard Theatre, London] - February 12th, 8pm 2007

The Rose Theatre Edge Hill University - March 8th, 4pm 2007 [part of Leap '07]

Writers Conference LABAN, in studio at Laban, London - March 31st, 2027


The use of the word 'transparency' in the title was a part of my ask 'if anything could ever be transparent' The gauze of the fabric set was transparent but it catches the light of projection and manipulates. As I have been developing this archive I have been drawn to Edouard Glissant's work, particularly Poetics of Relation. Glissant extends my thinking through his discussion and cry for opacity. Transparency reduces us to the limits of another's understanding. Glissant writes "Opacities must be preserved; an appetite for opportune obscurity in translation must be created; and falsely convenient vehicular sabirs must be relentlessly refuted." pg.120

In 2006 I made the work to challenge the audience to wittiness multiple truths through transparency. Glissant offers a remedy - Opacity. A remedy to the false hope that transparency might lead to knowing. 

"The opaque is not the obscure, though it is possible for it to be so and be accepted as such. It is that which cannot be reduced, which is the most perennial guarantee of participation and confluence" pg. 191 


Performance at 'Dance Up Close' Texas Woman's University 

Dec.1st 2023

camera work Asiyah Martin 

'Final Showing' at TWU 

(Open Rehearsal) Nov. 3rd 2023

recording /camera  Asiyah Martin

Programme Notes 2023


This piece is part of a larger project archiving the full 20-minute work "Truth & Transparency" created in 2007. In tonight's work, Dr Akinleye uses the original opening music to explore how their relationship with the topic of the choreography has changed between 2007 and now.

Performed in the Fall 2023 Dance Up Close, Black Box Theatre, DGL 208, Texas Woman's University

November 30th at 4pm 

December 1st & 2nd at 7pm 

Archiving Truth and Transparency 

Choreographer: Dr Adesola Akinleye

Performers: Dominqnesha Delaney, Elaine Miles, Shanya Morris, Jailin Samuels, thank you to Cadence Banks.

Original Music: Michael "Mickey J" Asante

Lighting: Dayna Ballenger

Rehearsal Assistant: Allen LaPoint