‘Hoptown’ dance performance to depict sisterhood of Black women

The production will premiere in Hopkinsville in 2023 before performances in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia.

Dancers affiliated with the Virginia-based MKArts and its artistic director MK Abadoo have been in Hopkinsville this week as they develop an immersive dance performance titled “Hoptown” that will premiere on May 20, 2023, at the Alhambra Theatre. 

Abadoo, an assistant professor of dance and choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University, has family ties to Hopkinsville, including her mother Regina Bowden. “Hoptown” will focus on the sisterhood of Black women with inspiration from the near-parallel lives of Abadoo’s mother and the late feminist writer bell hooks, who grew up in Hopkinsville as Gloria Jean Watkins.

MK Abadoo stands infront of screen describing hoptown performance
MK Abadoo, speaking Thursday at Hopkinsville Community College, introduces the concept for a dance performance titled “Hoptown” that will premiere on May 20, 2023, at the Alhambra Theatre. It will focus on the sisterhood of Black women inspired by the parallel lives of two Hopkinsville women, feminist author bell hooks and Abadoo’s mother, Regina Bowden. (Photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

Several members of the Bowden and Watkins families were present Thursday afternoon at Hopkinsville Community College’s auditorium when Abadoo and members of her organization performed and spoke about the “Hoptown” project. 

The dancers involved the audience in their HCC appearance. For example, attendees were asked to write briefly about a personal experience on index cards that had been placed under every auditorium seat, and then describe their stories to fellow spectators. The dancers went into the audience to listen in and used impromptu movements to express some of the stories they heard. 

The Pennyroyal Arts Council is a co-commissioner of “Hoptown” with Dance Place in Washington, D.C. After it premieres at the Alhambra, the production will have shows in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, said arts council executive director Margaret Prim. 

Abadoo said the dancers will have several residencies, ranging from several days to a few weeks each, in Hopkinsville leading up to the premiere. 

dances on stage
Dancers with MKArts perform Thursday at the Hopkinsville Community College. Led by MK Abadoo (far left), an assistant professor of dance and choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University, the group is creating an immersive dance titled “Hoptown” that will premiere on May 20, 2023, at the Alhambra Theatre. (Photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

“In this time, we will be creating the dance work but also offering a series of workshops called sistering circles where the focus is really on supporting intergenerational community-building and organizing in Hopkinsville,” Abadoo said. 

“Hoptown” is inspired by the lives of Abadoo’s mother and bell hooks — and by people living in Hopkinsville today, said Abadoo. 

“Our focus is on drawing attention to the power of sistering traditions to protect and nourish Black women, girls and gender-expansive folks, even in the darkest places and spaces of our lives,” she said. 

Gender expansion refers to a broadening of gender expression and identity beyond the expected norms of society. 

MKArts earned a grant from National Performance Network to help produce “Hoptown.” The organization works with artists and groups that advance racial and social justice through the arts.

‘Hoptown’ dance performance to depict sisterhood of Black women

Jennifer P. Brown | Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at editor@hoptownchronicle.org. She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.