mayfield brooks is a movement-based performance artist, vocalist, urban farmer, and writer. brooks teaches and performs practices that arise from Improvising While Black (IWB), their interdisciplinary dance project which explores the decomposed matter of Black life and engages in dance improvisation, disorientation, dissent, and ancestral healing. In January, they were awarded the Merce Cunningham Dance Award 2021.
brooks performed Improvising While Black (IWB): Dancing In The Hold at Gibney Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center (2018) as part of the dance series Gathering Place: Black Queer Landing. Dancing In The Hold included an interdisciplinary workshop for Black artists, two evening-length shows, and a six-hour movement installation with a procession to the African Burial Ground in downtown Manhattan, NY.
In 2020, their multi-year, interdisciplinary solo performance project Letters To Marsha with Viewing Hours (a diptych) was presented in Brooklyn, NY by JACK in partnership with Mount Tremper Arts. In Viewing Hours, brooks lay in repose under 40 pounds of compost asking audiences to witness the weight of live decomposing matter on brooks’s body, and to consider reparations. Emerging from the compost they performed Letters To Marsha, a dance based on three years of brooks’s written love notes to legendary Black transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. Letters To Marsha with Viewing Hours (a diptych) was supported by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
brooks’ other performances include: Viewing Hours: A Discourse for dance decomposition and choreographies of breath at Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany (2020); Entropy’s Garden and Viewing Hours at The Kitchen, New York, NY (2019); iwb: glossolalia in the flesh at Annie May Swift Hall, Evanston, IL (2016); and Improvising While Black (IWB): The Wreck Part 2 at University of California, Davis, CA (2014). They are the recipient of residencies at Abrons Arts Center (2020), Center for Performance Research (2020), Kaaitheater (2020), Works on Water (2020/2018), and Movement Research (2017). As a performer, brooks has collaborated with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Meg Stuart, Moriah Evans, Mary Pearson, Karen Nelson, Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir, Jo Kreiter, Keith Hennessy, and Seth Eisen.