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For Nina

Through dance, vocals, piano, and visuals For Nina is an intrinsic story exploring hope, love and liberative Black Femme experience. The performers honor Nina Simone by engaging in her practice of self-honesty as a tool to inspire audiences to confront truths about themselves. Motifs of line dancing, hand percussion, partnering, and syncopated melody propel the performers into Black diasporic practice as they play on the exchange of spontaneity and structure. Nina Simone songs like “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” are performed with dynamic musicality and virtuosic dancing with lead artists, Victoria Lynn Awkward and Desiré Graham.

September 23 - 27, 2024, Show, Weeksville Heritage Center

August 21 - August 31, 2024, Research and Development Period I, Arrow St. Arts

July 10 - July 18, 2024, Research and
Development Period II, Arrow St. Arts

December 16, 2023 @ 8pm,
 Show, Multicultural Arts Center

November 30, 2023 @ 8pm, Premier, Hibernian Hall

Contact for touring:

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Music Director and Vocalist

Desiré Graham is a performer, director, dramaturg and arts administrator. She sings to connect to a past that is not just her’s, but a history of many. She writes to reconcile the shade and the sun. She collaborates, in a constant search for those who also feel the tug to be elsewhere. From 2019-2022, she was based in Tuscany, Italy as a company member at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. Currently based in the U.S., Graham commits to the cultivation of artistic spaces that foster transparency, active listening and anti-oppressive practices as a requirement. In alignment with these values, Desiré works with Double Edge Theatre and VLA DANCE as a recurring artistic collaborator. Additionally, she curates a space for black queer performing artists to create inside of The Black Residency. Graham also hosts a workshop series entitled, Somewhere in Between, an invitation for BIPOC and ALAANA New Haven residents to discover the use of communal singing, give weight to their vibrational soul, activate, and call on others to join in. She is freely in-process, if you have any questions about what she’s done or where she’s been, please ask about it to be about it.

Choreographer and Dancer

Victoria Lynn Awkward is a multi-hyphenate creator, administrator, educator and the Director of VLA DANCE. She pursued her multiple interests at Goucher College and graduated with high honors in Dance, Visual Art and Secondary Education. As the Director of VLA DANCE she is researching how to lead with joy, pleasure, and breath in and outside of art making practices. This work is guided through the lineage of Black and queer liberation practitioners. Alongside directing VLA DANCE, Victoria is a freelance artist, who most recently choreographed for Huntington Theater, Company One Theatre, Boston Lyric Opera, and Commonwealth Shakespeare. Victoria is also an educator having worked at Salem State University, Brown University, West End House, Middlesex School, and Urbanity Dance. She continues to deepen her teaching practices as a mentee with Midday Movement Series. Victoria is currently a Brother Thomas Fellow, and recipient of the Next Steps for Boston Grant Dance Program as well as a recipient of the Queer (Re)public Theater Offensive Residency. Through her work she aims to inspire people to pause and reflect on their actions towards themselves, their community and their environment. 


Audience Feedback

"I loved the emotive nature of the show. I do believe Nina Simone would have approved! I am also struck at how the young people are connecting with the past and the important work of Nina Simone. Especially in how she was a complex person."

"I loved the collaboration between the dancer and musicians. I found this performance incredibly freeing!"

"Delicious phrasework and music, powerful performance quality from all performers, wonderful lighting, satisfying use of the boxes to create more texture in the space, and carefully considered transitions between songs/sections kept me riveted the whole time"

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For nina was funded thanks to


Credits for first iteration of For Nina


Victoria Lynn Awkward (she/her), Choreographer & Dancer

Desiré Graham (she/her), Vocalist & Music Director

Hua Ye (she/her), Pianist 



Aliza Franz (she/they), Rehearsal Director

Sasha Peterson (she/her), Dramaturg

Jolie Frazer-Madge (she/her), Stage Manager

Natalie Main (she/her), Stage Manager

Elmer Martinez (he/him), Lighting Designer 

Mikayla Williams (she/her), Set Designer

Theophile Victoria (he/him), Tech Support

Young Dance Artists 

Zaria Louis-Charles (Student of Urbanity Dance) 

Nora Welch


Jo-Mé Dance Arts Company II Under the Artistic Directors, May-Lisa Chandler, Joe Gonzalez: 

Aliyah German

Andrea Lopez

Leah Pires

Janiah Wimes

Page photos by Najee Brown

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