Ni’Ja Whitson Performs “A Meditation on Tongues” at EMPAC

Troy, NY — On Thursday, April 5, at 7PM, choreographer Ni’Ja Whitson presents their dance performance A Meditation on Tongues at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteA Meditation on Tongues is Whitson’s live-dance adaptation of filmmaker and activist Marlon T. Riggs 1989 film Tongues Untied, a groundbreaking portrait of black, gay identity.

Upon its release, Riggs’ Tongues Untied was one of the first efforts to depict the specific experience of black, gay men, a culture marginalized by both heterosexual society and white, gay society. Thirty years after the film’s release, Ni’Ja Whitson has updated the project, focusing on contemporary masculinity in relation to the invisibility of lesbian and gender non-conforming bodies within the cultural dialogue on race.

Staged throughout the EMPAC building, A Meditation on Tongues begins with a solo by vogue dancer Leggoh Labeija, who then struts down a runway to lead the audience into Studio 1. Here, Whitson and collaborator Kirsten Flores-Davis perform an extended stage duet. Whitson’s performance uses choreography, film, and sound, to underscore the historical importance of Riggs’ film during the early years of the AIDS pandemic and beyond.

Ni’Ja Whitson is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, and writer based in Riverside, California. They are an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California Riverside and have had commissions and residencies at Gedgebrook in Seattle, ICA Philadelphia, American Realness at Abrons Art Center, Danspace at St. Mark’s Church, Dance in Process at Gibney Dance, and LMCC Process Space in New York. Whitson is a Bessie award-winning performer and recipient of funding through the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and Jerome Foundation Individual Artist Grant.

For more information, please visit

The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is where the arts, sciences, and technology interact with and influence each other by using the same facilities and technologies, and by breathing the same air. EMPAC hosts artists and researchers to produce and present new work in a building designed with sophisticated architectural and technical infrastructure. Four exceptional venues and studios enable audiences, artists, and researchers to inquire, experiment, develop, and experience the ever-changing relationship between ourselves, technology, and the worlds we create around us. EMPAC is an icon of the New Polytechnic, a new paradigm for cross-disciplinary research and learning at Rensselaer, the nation’s oldest technological research university.

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