This month BOLD is featuring 5 Black Women Who Are Using Their Artistry for Freedom.
We talked to Brittany Monachino, Broadway performer (King Kong) about finding her voice through movement. Check her out at @brittany.marcell!
Q: What are some ways you have you been reclaiming your creative voice during this
time of both the Pandemic, and over the past few weeks, watching the Uprising of
Black People across the country?
We find ourselves at a time where 2 pandemics are running rampant in our world. Racism is the original pandemic of this nation, and while some have only just “awoken” to this fight, we are still without a vaccine after centuries of oppression! The more I allowed myself to feel, the more I felt burdened to speak with both my body and my
Initially, I started doing something I called the MVMT DIARIES to cope with COVID-19 because I find release when I write, so I unconsciously started “writing” with my body. I’ve always connected dance to a journaling experience since my ballet training days, one where no feeling is off-limits and freedom can be felt even if only momentarily. It has allowed me to feel with my body and communicate some of my deepest truths, questions, prayers, joys, and lament without verbal explanation. A lot of the MVMT DIARY entries stemmed from feelings of loss and fear, having to quarantine alone, and feeling so deeply for those around me. They also stemmed from connections I was making between how dance has taught me the tension between balance, ease, friction, and how that translates to life, the desire for physical touch (I miss hugs so much), and the need for human interaction as an extroverted person. Finally, my desires to see a world where I don’t fear my mother’s life to be taken simply because she is black, a world where equality is not a distant, rationed-out dream but a true felt and experienced reality. My MVMT DIARIES have given me the space to release and attempt to find answers within new pathways of movement. They were born out of my desperation and attempts to make sense of what I was seeing and feeling. MVMT DIARIES have given me space for prayerful movement and my own way of intercession in a time where much of my normal comforts are no longer.
As artists, we balance both the need to be seen and the fear of being too seen. I use improvisation and writing as my outlet so that my pain can be felt as deeply as my joy. My black ancestors were not silent, and neither will I be silent any longer.
Q: What are you reading, watching, listening to that has contributed to your creative freedom?
I love documentaries, oftentimes more than reading! Some I’ve enjoyed are: Wasteland, They’ve Gotta Have Us, Hate Thy Neighbor, a 3-minute hug, and Ugly Delicious to name a few! I have always been fascinated by uncovering the truth of history and who we are as people and documentaries allow current and past history not to feel so far away for me, it's like a connecting of the dots so that we can make REAL changes that not only hint at equality but actually take us there!
One of my favorite books that I’ve read during this time was How to Make a Living Living, by Nina Karnikowski, but there’s so many and the list has grown significantly! I’m currently reading The Color of Water by James McBride. Lastly, one person I have spent a lot of time listening to is Pastor Kenny Hart to keep me grounded.
Q: Has there ever been a moment in your life where you felt as if you were breaking free from something?
Many times and all of the time! Brokenness teaches us how to release as much as it teaches us how to fight, and I’m a fighter! I am breaking free right now and responding with I CAN & I WILL! I can confidently say that however God continues to lead me, that I am just getting started…and I’m doing it by loving myself and being ME.
One way that I feel I’m breaking free right now is by using my voice and speaking or dancing what I feel. So many memories have come up that I did my best to push down of various comments that were made to me throughout my life and dance training, toxic
environments that I was around as a child, and many times I was unable to dance due to injury. These situations led me to internalize thoughts that I wasn’t enough or was too much of something because of my mixed identity, that my body, my hair, my features, my mind was too much and not enough all at once. One of the biggest lies of all was that my voice did not matter, so I internalized that I was not good at communication, that no one would listen, and so I shouldn’t speak. Many of the negative comments towards me were due to my blackness and they were very painful, and many of the names I was called have stayed with me. I’ve been doing a lot of personal work and reflection to destroy some of the lies that I believed to be true and some of the ways in which my voice has been suppressed. One way I’m countering that is by speaking and getting some good old therapy. I’ve realized I have a lot to say and always a lot to learn, but I don’t desire to be silent. As I’ve been actively breaking free and allowing myself to remember and feel the pain, I’ve been able to see my potential and myself in a new light. It is freeing to be a more full, more grounded version of yourself and I didn’t even fully realize all of the ways in which I wasn’t free until I began this work. I always say that people tend to speak of one moment in life that breaks you and causes a change, but I’m of the belief that there are many big and small breaking points that we can either be defeated, wounded, or fight with all we have to get through. I have been all three of these examples at various moments in my life, but my hope is that when I die people see the work I’ve put in and are able to say she never gave up! I’m about to take flight out here! KAKAW babies, let’s get free, y’all! It’s a forever process.
Q: If you had a gigantic, lit up billboard in Times Square- an avenue to get a message to millions of people- what would it say? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (It can also be someone else’s quote, something you live by.)
Words I live by: If God lives inside of you, there is nothing you can’t do! Continue to do it afraid and courage will rise to meet you. You will find yourself until you find yourself again so continue to RISE and bring others with you!
Q: What advice would you give to a young, driven student graduating today about the industry? What advice should they ignore?
BE YOURSELF!!! Learn EVERYTHING- sing, dance, act and have fun continually learning. Be committed to doing the work. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean this isn’t for you! Doubt is a frequent part of the journey; speak truth to your doubt! Do
not compromise, it’s ok to say no to some offers. Limitations are opportunities to get creative! Treat EVERYONE well and lastly, care for your heart balance, as much as you do your instrument, it matters!
Ignore anyone that says there is no room for you!! There’s room!
Q: What have you become better at saying no to? What are some boundaries that have helped you feel free?
I say no to silence, shrinking back, and anyone or anything that tells me I can’t or don’t belong, even if that person is me. I’m continually growing in this area, but as Congresswoman Maxine Waters said or as I like to imagine her in my mind, as Auntie said I’m “reclaiming my time!”
Q: When you feel overwhelmed, unfocused, or even in despair, what do you do?
I breathe, cry, pray AND pray some more, write, sing, dance, and I try
to feel rather than to avoid. Sometimes it’s messy and I believe that is