Weighting for You Is Choreographed From A Place of Self Acceptance
Dance Education graduate student Dominique M. Fontenot will be choreographing one of nine dances as part of the 2022 Masters’ Dance Concert on April 29 and 30. Her piece is titled Weighting for You and the spelling is not a mistake. We spoke with Dominique about her use of “weighting” versus “waiting, what it meant to her to gain weight during lockdown and why it feels good to accept yourself just the way you are.
How did you get into dance and choreography?
I didn’t start seriously dancing until I was in high school, which is late. I originally pursued my undergraduate degree in architecture and art education. I was dancing throughout that time and ultimately decided dance was the direction I wanted to go in. I’m currently a graduate student in the NYU MA Dance in the Professions track with American Ballet Theatre certification and will be graduating in August. While I still love to dance, I’d rather choreograph and teach because I get more satisfaction by helping others be in the spotlight. I prefer being behind the scenes.
Why “weighting” not “waiting”?
I’ve always been a very active person, but during lockdown I wasn’t and as a result I gained 40 pounds. Prior to that, I had been 100 pounds for as long as I can remember. At first I was self conscious. I had to get to know this new body. But now I feel like I look more the way I’m meant to look, more natural. I’m very comfortable with myself and feel as confident now as I did when I was 100 pounds. Being African American, I feel like, as women, we are constantly being criticized for our body shape and to be honest, I prefer myself like this.
How do you make this theme come across in your piece?
Through the dance movements, which are grounded on bottom, but light and airy on top. It’s a modern piece. The costumes are very free, and roomy like choir robes. Everyone wears pants. The lighting and colors are also important. I chose muted shades to represent the vibe. The subject matter is not necessarily joyous, it’s very sensitive and personal.
What about the music?
I chose two versions of “Father Stretch My Hands.” The original 1976 recording by Pastor T.L. Barrett and the 2016 re-release by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. The dance is an abstract version of past and present. The narrative changes with the music. They are seamless together. I’m not very spiritual, but to me, this song is what spirituality is all about.
How are you hoping people will respond?
People will connect to it individually. I hope everyone takes away something positive. The dance community in general is not plus size. There is an image most people have of a “typical” dancer. This piece does not fit that mold. I want people to get a sense of internal awareness. I want them to see themselves on stage feeling supported by those around them. Weighting for You validates self confidence and empowerment. The seven dancers are not all in the Dance Education Program, but they all came to audition. All have different body sizes and all are people of color. I choreograph centering around African Americans in social entities. Who better to represent us than ourselves.