College of Visual & Performing Arts
- Davis College of Business and Economics
- College of Education and Human Development
- College of Graduate Studies and Research
- Waldron College of Health and Human Services
- College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences
- Artis College of Science and Technology
- College of Visual and Performing Arts
- Other Offices and Departments
Senior Choreographs Thought-provoking Dance Performance
On April 14, senior Dance major, Toni Latham, will present the culmination of a semester’s worth of research, choreography and vision in a provocative performance entitled MMM(EAT).
The work was inspired by a novel called Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica in which a virus has caused animal meat to become toxic to humans. Cannibalism becomes not just legal in this world but institutionalized and humans are soon bred for slaughter and consumption through industrial farming.
Another influence is 2019 undercover footage from an employee at Fair Oak Farms, a dairy producer using the name Fairlife. The extensive footage documented cruelty and abuse to animals, particularly calves.
Naturally, this is not subject matter one tends to think of as dance material.
But Latham says that’s part of the point. She wants to break down barriers to discussing the nature of food manufacturing, especially when it involves animals.
For her, understanding the food industry in this way lead her to vegetarianism, but she makes it clear that she is not passing moral judgement and has not set out to convert people with her research.
“I am not telling people what’s good or bad, or that they are evil if they eat meat,” she said emphatically.
“This is a reflection. It’s about what you are comfortable with putting in your body.”
Latham would like her audience to come in with an open mind and doesn’t feel like they should assume much about the narrative of the performance, which is not fully chronological and utilizes video as well as live performance.
Senior Madz Alexander, who performs in the piece and helped with the research and choreography, agrees. She feels that the unpredictable nature of the work is one of its strengths.
“You don’t know how it’s going to start. You don’t know how it’s going to finish,” Alexander said.
“That’s what makes it so interesting.”
The idea for MMM(EAT) had been brewing for a while when she approached James Robey, Chair of the Dance Department and her mentor for the independent study.
She also had the music in mind before the idea had fully formed. Compositions by Sunwald, Bufo Bureau and Michael Wall provide the musical basis for MMM(EAT).
At the beginning of the term, she set out to do more extensive research and at one point, Latham and Alexander used Alexander’s dog as subject for studying animal movement and behavior.
Latham then brought together seven fellow dancers in February for improv and rehearsals. In March, she went to Selu Conservancy and filmed what became the center section of the performance.
The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship also helped out by procuring props for the project.
In the end, Latham says the performance is ultimately a story that should position people to consider the nature of animals in our society and our treatment of them.
“I am not saying people are defined by what they eat,” she said. “I just want them to think about it.”
MMM(EAT) will be performed in the Albig Studio in Peters Hall on Friday, April 14 at 7:30 pm. The show is free and all are welcome.