Linda Tillery collaborating with Zaccho Dance Theatre
Award: $35,000 Performing Arts Grant awarded in 1997
Premiered: July 16-19, 1998, Fort Point, the Presidio, San Francisco, California
Linda Tillery and members of the Cultural Heritage Choir collaborated with Joanna Haigood, members of Zaccho Dance Theatre, storyteller Diane Ferlatte, and others to create Invisible Wings, an interdisciplinary performance piece about the Underground Railroad. The artists presented the first edition of Invisible Wings at Fort Point—the site of Civil War-era buildings—in San Francisco’s Presidio in July 1998, and the second version at Jacob’s Pillow in Lee, Massachusetts the following month.
Linda Tillery’s Cultural Heritage Choir is a vocal ensemble of African American women specializing in authentic performance of African American “survival music.” Joanna Haigood’s Zaccho Dance Theater is a leading practitioner of aerial dance, known for its large-scale, site-specific works. Storyteller Diane Ferlatte performs traditional African American tales, and for this piece, she combined elements of slave narratives with folk tales.
Invisible Wings was inspired during a 1993 visit by Haigood to Jacob’s Pillow, where she learned that buildings in the Pillow’s complex once served as safe houses for fleeing slaves. Beginning in early 1995, Haigood pursued comprehensive research on slave culture, dance, and the abolition movement through fact finding trips to the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. In 1996, Haigood invited Tillery and Ferlatte to collaborate with her: They traveled together to traditional African American communities in Georgia and North Carolina, conducting field research. They also made extensive use of resources in the Library of Congress. At the conclusion of their research, the artists developed Invisible Wings through focused time spent together and with dramaturg Kim Euell and other artists both at Jacob’s Pillow and in San Francisco.