A lot of us do not understand the problems within the prison system or recognize the effects that it has on our society when they don’t affect us first-hand. The Bleeding Backwards series aims to not only bring awareness to a problem, but to inspire and call for change.
Keep it Colorful
Inclusion StatementWe're dedicated to the communities that are systemically affected by the prison system first hand. Volume I is made possible through partnership with First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) and intrinsically powered by the voices of our cast and crew that is 90% people of color.
About The Project
Race relations in the United States are rooted in the dehumanization of people of color, specifically African-Americans. When we look at our history, the need for control, power, and submission in one way or another rears its ugly head time and time again. Although slavery has been eradicated and the Jim Crow era has ended, these acts of intimidation have only changed in name, not practice. Today’s plantations are prisons and the slave patrol is the police force.
"While there may no longer be an overseer with a lash, there is now a deputy with a gun."
Bleeding Backwards is a series of short dance films that explore the effects of the United States prison system on individuals and communities. Through physicality and movement, Bleeding Backwards shows how the prison system exploits and dehumanizes people of color and the generational trauma caused by this practice. Each volume of the series will explore topics such as police brutality, prisoner mistreatment, forced familial separation, corruption within the justice system, and lack of rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society. In highlighting these issues, the series aims to incite conversation that will lead to positive change.
We are currently in pre-production for Better Off Dead, Volume I of the series, which is centered on police brutality. Loosely based on by the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, Better Off Dead examines the relationship of a black man and a police officer from multiple vantage points. How are police viewed by people of color, and vice versa? What historical events inform this relationship? Dancers in Better Off Dead will use solo and partnered movements to explore these questions.
The psychological intricacies that allow someone to shoot a young boy in the back 16-times and claim self-defense are indicative of the history that has brought us to this point. This is a testament to the depths of white supremacy and the inexcusable instinct to not only harm, but dispose of black black bodies. Another one bites the dust.
How twisted is the system that breeds hate and injustice in blue uniforms? What does it mean to exist in this world with the power and protection to take the lives you deem worthless? What does that do to the ego? How has 400 years of systemic oppresion warped a race's worldview?
The police officer will be played by Nick Schrier. His movement is complex: frantic, but expansive. His reach, however, is fueled by hostility and the desire to falsely appear larger than he is. He is aggressive, but his aggression comes out of fear; not for his life, but fear of a black body. His partner work will primarily be done with little thought or care for his partner to convey his belief that black bodies are disposable. His solo work will highlight his fearful nature.
"They appear to glory in their chains; now more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses."
For generations, black men have been portrayed as a monolith of strength, rebellion, and terror. Black male bodies have repeatedly been scapegoats for misplaced insecurities and fears. They are rarely given the three-dimensionality they deserve and instead are written off as scary, uncontrollable men that need to be put away or put down.
When are black males allowed to be soft when society prescribes these aggressive labels such as criminals, thugs, and drug dealers?
The black civilian will be played by Ivory Leonard IV. His movement is never aggressive, but rather defensive. Believing the police do not care about black people, he desires to have no interaction with the officer. He wishes to exist, safely, outside of the officer's gaze. All of his movement in the partnering work will be in response to the police officer. His solo work is soft, light, and quiet to show that the police officer’s fear is conditioned, invalid, and out of place.
Bleeding Backwards is an extremely emotional piece. Terror, drama, intimacy, and suspense are all at play in this work. The audience will experience visceral, familiar emotions. Bleeding Backwards will present these sentiments to the audience in a way that everyone can relate to, even if they don’t have first hand experience with the US Prison System.
The first volume of this work will be created
Director/Choreographer, Talia Koylass, is a Co-Mission Resident at Links Hall this fall where she will be working to develop the beginning of the series. Co-Mission Residencies are awarded annually to four emerging artists. As a Co-Mission Resident, Talia has been awarded three months of rehearsal space, mentorship and professional development guidance, and the opportunity to premiere her work as part of the Co-Mission Festival of New Works. Links Hall has provided a home for emerging and established artists alike over the years through residency programs, artist-curated festivals, performance series, workshops and low-cost studio rentals. Links Hall is also our fiscal sponsor for Volume I: Better Off Dead, meaning that your donations to this project are tax-deductible!
The first volume will be used as a platform to directly give support to First Defense Legal Aid, which provides free, 24-hour legal representation to people in Chicago Police custody and educates Chicagoans about how to protect their constitutional rights through fundraising, workshops and other city-wide events. Talia first learned about FDLA at "Shut Down the Dan Ryan", an anti-violence protest in Chicago on July 7, 2018. Representatives from the organization were handing out cards to protesters letting them know they offered free legal assistance to all, should anyone be detained by the police. We knew that we wanted to create real, tangible change through this series, and after learning about FDLA and attending one of their fundraisers we decided they would be a great first organization to partner with. We will be working with FDLA throughout the creation of Volume I to help bring more awareness to the amazing work that their organization is doing in the city through fundraising, tabling and outreach.
"How do we reach a city that mostly looks at people of color in contempt or pity rather than solidarity? How do we get them to listen?"
Motion/Pictures Dance Project is a production collective that was created with the intention of telling stories in their most intimate form: through movement. Dance channels the experiences of the body and the emotions that come with it. When we speak through movement, understanding each other is inevitable. MPDP is not only dedicated to creating visual and visceral work for enjoyment, but specifically to amplify the voices of communities that are often overlooked or kept quiet. We believe art is a catalyst for change and we work to use the tools of dance and filmmaking to not only critique our world, but to question it, celebrate it, and push others to make the world a better place.
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About This Team
The Bleeding Backwards production team is comprised of four Black women united by their passion for storytelling. Talia Koylass, creator and co-producer of the series, received her BFA in dance and visual arts from the Alvin Ailey school at Fordham University. Gabriella Wiltz is also co-producer, and a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she majored in dance with a focus on dance film and technology. Tyler Myles is the associate producer, who brings her experience in web series production and film theory. Rielle Walker, published author and content creator, joins the team as the social media producer. Each one of us has a personal connection to this project, and we’re excited to pool our experiences together to bring this story to life. The necessity to create this project stems from our intimate perspective on its subject matter. All four of us have grown up on the South Side of Chicago. As a result, we’ve each come face to face with racism, discrimination, hyperpolicing, and the effects of bias in the justice system. We believe everyone has the capacity to create change, our hope is that this film inspires others to do so.
We also welcome to the team our phenomenal Rehearsal Director, Jasmin Williams, a multi-talented professional dancer and vocalist from the South Side of Chicago who is a featured dancer in Motion/Pictures Dance Project's debut film, The Good Christian, and our amazing Director of Photography, Andrea Kinnerk, a graduate of DePaul University who has worked on a plethora of films, series and commercials in Chicago including her stunning camera work as DP for The Good Christian.