adaku, part 1: the road opens

Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born
Past event


In this chapter of a larger speculative mythology, a precolonial African village is at the cusp of a major upheaval. The community is entangled in an argument that could shape the future of all of their lives. This collective reckoning explores the fraught relationship between ancestors, future generations, and the role of ritual. A sonic and visual landscape of reflective textures, contouring shadows, and thrumming facilitates an intimate exchange between performers and the audience.

A riveting presence in her own unclassifiable creations, Okpokwasili can leave an audience vibrating, moved by images and incantations that linger long after a performance has ended.

Siobhan Burke, Dance Magazine

adaku, part 1: the road opens was commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and co-commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 

adaku, part 1: the road opens was developed in a Studio Residency at The Museum of Modern Art, as part of the Hyundai Card Performance Series; a 2023 Summer Stages Dance residency at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Summer Stages Dance at the ICA is made possible, in part, with the support of Jane Karol and Howard Cooper, George and Ann Colony, David Parker, The Aliad Fund, and Stephanie and Leander McCormick-Goodhart. adaku, part 1: the road opens was also developed during a residency at the Brown Arts Institute at Brown University and a residency at the Mercury Store in Brooklyn, NY.

This REDCAT production is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

about the artists

Okwui Okpokwasili

Okwui Okpokwasili is a Brooklyn based performer, choreographer and writer creating multidisciplinary performance pieces. The child of immigrants from Nigeria, Okpokwasili was born and raised in the Bronx, and the histories of these places and the girls and women who inhabit them feature prominently in much of her work. Her highly experimental productions include “Bessie” Award winning Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance, “Bessie” Award winning Bronx Gothic, Poor People’s TV Room, When I Return Who Will Receive Me, and Adaku’s Revolt. Recent works include installations in the exhibitions: “Grief and Grievance, Art and Mourning in America” at the New Museum, “Witchhunt” at The Hammer Museum in LA, and “Sex Ecologies” at Kunsthall Trondheim in Norway. Commissions include the performance On the way, undone at the Highline in New York City and at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn as part of FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival, the film Returning for Danspace Project, and the site specific performance Swallow the Moon at Jacob’s Pillow. She has worked with film and theater directors: Carrie Mae Weems, Ralph Lemon, Arthur Jafa, Terence Nance, Josephine Decker, Mika Rottenberg, Mahyad Tousi, Charlotte Brathwaite, Jim Findlay, Annie Dorsen and Peter Born.

Okpokwasili’s residencies and awards include The French American Cultural Exchange (2006-2007); Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012); Baryshnikov Arts Center Artist-in-Residence (2013); New York Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Under Construction at the Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Program (2014-17, 2019-20); ICPP at Wesleyan (2015), The Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ artist grant in dance (2014); BRIClab (2015); Columbia University (2015), the Rauschenberg Residency (2015), the Mellon Creative Futures Fellowship at Carolina Performing Arts, UNC-Chapel Hill (2018-2021). Okpokwasili was the 2015-2017 Randjelovic/Stryker New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist (RCA.) She was a 2018 Princeton University Hodder Fellow, a 2018 Herb Alpert Awardee in Dance, an Antonyo Awardee, a 2018 Doris Duke Artist Awardee, and a 2018 MacArthur Fellow. She was the inaugural artist for the Kravis Studio Residency program at MOMA in 2022.



Peter Born

Peter Born works as a director, composer and designer of performance and installation, often in collaboration with Okwui Okpokwasili, with whom he has created the installation repose without rest without end in Trondheim (2021), Swallow the Moon at Jacob’s Pillow (2021), on the way, undone at the High Line (2021), Poor People’s TV Room (SOLO) installation at the New Museum and the Hammer Museum (2021), Sitting on a Man’s Head (2019) at Danspace Project, Adaku’s Revolt (2019) at Abrons Arts Center, At the Anterior Edge (2018) with the Barnard Dance Department, Poor People’s TV Room (2017), when I return, who will receive me (2016), Bronx Gothic (The Oval) (2014), Bronx Gothic (2013) and pent-up:  a revenge dance (2009), as well as an album they produced together “day pulls down the sky” (2019).  Their work has also appeared in the Berlin Biennale and at the Tate Museum, London.  He has collaborated with David Thomson as a director, designer and writer on The Venus Knot (2017) and he his own mythical beast (2018), and as a set designer for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot (2014) and El Capitan Kinglady (2016). His work Poor People’s TV Room (SOLO), created in collaboration with Okwui Okpokwasili, is in the collections of the Hammer Museum and the Whitney Museum. Four of Peter’s collaborations have garnered New York Dance Performance “Bessie” Awards.  His work as an art director and prop stylist has been featured in video and photo projects with Vogue, Estee Lauder, Barney’s Co-op, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, “25” magazine, The Wall Street Journal and No Strings Puppet Productions. He is a former New York public high school teacher, itinerant floral designer, corporate actor-facilitator, video maker and furniture designer.

cast & creative team

Created by Okwui Okpokwasili

Performed by mayfield brooks, McKenzie Frye, Audrey Hailes, Samita Sinha, Stacy Lynn Smith, AJ Wilmore, Okwui Okpokwasili

Directed and Designed by Peter Born