Cynthia Oliver Co.

Works On Video



Works On Video


Virago-Man Dem

“Virago-Man Dem,” is an evening-length, dance-theatre work by Cynthia Oliver navigating black masculinities. Troubling the term “Virago”’s reference to characteristically male behaviors and female cultural transgressions, Virago-Man Dem is a nuanced study in masculinities, and their multiplicities within cultures of Caribbeanist and African American communities. Utilizing movement, spoken word and visual design, Virago-Man Dem explores the expressions particular to Caribbean and African American black masculinities as they are performed and expressed by men, staged on male identified bodies, but designed and interpreted by a woman — Oliver. The work contains traces of all those who have generously been a part of the two year process of bringing it to the stage, is grounded in the lives of the folks performing the work - Duane Cyrus, Jonathan Gonzalez, Ni'Ja Whitson, and Niall Noel Jones, and extrapolates to broader cultural trajectories. Oliver’s design team includes longtime collaborator composer Jason Finkelman, Black Kirby visual artists John Jennings and Stacey Robinson, projection/animator John Boesche, costume designer Susan Becker, and lighting designer Amanda Ringger. The work will premiere in New York at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Next Wave Festival October 25-28, 2017 and will tour the country."

Choreographed and Directed by Cynthia Oliver, Text derived in collaboration with the performers. Performers: Niall Noel Jones, Duane Cyrus, Jonathan Gonzalez and Ni'Ja Whitson.
Composer: Jason Finkelmanwith vocals by Brandon T. Washington, additional percussion by John Wieczorek, and guitar by Geoff Gersh
Visual Artists: Black Kirby - John Jennings and Stacey Robinson
Projections Artist: John Boesche
Costume Design: Susan Becker
Lighting Designer: Amanda Ringger
Brooklyn Academy of Music's (BAM) Next Wave Festival. 2017.



Choreography and text by Cynthia Oliver in collaboration with Leslie Cuyjet.  In BOOM!, both performers are individuals, friends, strangers, family, younger/older versions of themselves, negotiating relations that are persistently in flux. BOOM! began as a short (17 minute) duet featured in Ishmael Houston-Jones Parallels in Black Platform Series at Danspace at St. Mark’s Church (2012). The duet was again featured a year later at New York Live Arts (2013), and was subsequently commissioned to be extended and presented in the 2014 New York Live Arts season in its evening-length entirety. BOOM! examines the conditions of the two performing black women, when LIFE happens, when “fairness” and cause and effect do not necessarily align. The evening length BOOM! builds upon Oliver’s signature investigation of slippages in everyday life where truest selves and real life conditions are revealed, where characters betray artifice and persist in the relentless continuous management of multiple social experiences.
Music by Jason Finkelman
Lighting by Amanda Ringger
Costumes by Susan Becker.


Rigidigidim De Bamba De: Ruptured Calypso

Choreography by Cynthia Oliver.
Text by Cynthia Oliver in collaboration with the performers.
Direction by Cynthia Oliver. Music and sound design by Jason Finkelman.
Videography by Marcus Behrens.
Lighting by Amanda Ringger.
Dramaturgy by Renee Redding Jones.
Premiered at the Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia PA.

Rigidigidim De Bamba De: Ruptured Calypso is an evening-length multidisciplinary dance theatre project that drifts in and out of the carnival context using calypso dancing as an agent of Afro-Caribbean identity across geographical, national, and aesthetic borders. Rigidigidim’s international cast of artists layer myth, herstory, the spoken word, and calypso dancing to deliver calypso’s subversive truth telling, innuendo, and rawness to raucous and downright unrespectable levels.


Closer Than Skin

Written, Choreographed and Performed by Cynthia Oliver, Maria Earle, and Leslie Cuyjet.
Music composed by Jason Finkelman with drumming by Gordon Kay and music mixes by various artists.
Premiered at Aaron Davis Hall’s E-Moves Series (E-Stablished)

Closer Than Skin is a collection of saucy movement solos, duets and trios from new works and prior evening length pieces, where Oliver’s signature mix of words sound and the clothes we wear indicate that what separates us is merely a slither of porous penetrable fleshiness.


Lessons In Female Etiquette

Written, Choreographed and Performed by Cynthia Oliver
Premiered in Food For Thought Series at Danspace at St. Mark’s Church

Based on the beauty pageant research Oliver unearthed on her way to writing her dissertation “Queen of the Virgins: Beauty Pageants the Popular Women’s Theatre of the U.S. Virgin Islands”, Lessons in Female Etiquette is a seven minute piece where the details of proper etiquette is the aim of this lone cigarette smoking, slightly unkempt woman whose more base tendencies seem to always slip out.

This version performed by Leslie Cuyjet as part of Closer Than Skin


AfroSocialiteLifeDiva—25 Minute Dance Film

Written and Choreographed by Cynthia Oliver
Directed by Marcus Behrens
Music; Straylight, featuring Jason Finkelman, Geoff Gersh and Charles Cohen
Performers: Blossom Leilani Crawford, Maria Earle, Leslie Cuyjet, and Oliver

AfroSocialiteLifeDiva, originally a full length stage dance theatre work, was transformed into a 25 minute dance film to be aired on European Arts Channel Canal Arte in the fall of 2005. Filmed on location in Oliver’s current home town of Champaign-Urbana Illinois, a local, national and international team of performers, artists, technicians and support staff contributed to the making of this 25 minute version of the saga of women moving across geographies of landscape, bodies, and matters of spirit in one vibrant American family.


because she was

because she was is the solo iteration of the larger evening-length work SHEMAD, a meditation on black womanhood and madness, Oliver summons the worlds of women where their critique of one another can move from vicious to tender to humorous. She evokes the myth of the Djablesse and calls madness diagnoses into question, perhaps considering it's deployment a container for women's supernatural powers. 
Choreography and Text by Cynthia Oliver, 
Music composed and performed by Jason Finkelman and Geoff Gersh, 
Costume by Adrienne McDonald. 
The Kitchen, New York, New York. 2001.