The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins

About + Dance Company + Performance Lab + Record Label + Liberation Garden






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June 8, 1765: "Woman Slave hanged her Self between Decks" While most slave ships worked their way along the coast, the Sally appears to have remained largely in one place, apparently at a small British slave "factory" near the mouth of the River Grande, in what is today Guinea-Bissau. Hopkins traded rum with passing slave ships, acquiring manufactured goods like cloth, iron bars, and guns, which he then used to acquire slaves. On June 8, 1765, he purchased his 108th captive. That same day, an enslaved woman committed suicide. She was the second captive to die on the ship.-- Brown University's Center for Digital Initiatives + The John Carter Brown Library

The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins

The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins is an activist dance opera, that reimagines the narrative of Esek Hopkins; the future of our community; the future of public space; the future we will leave behind to our children's children. As we cleanse, heal, and practice liberation with our community, this project is a protest-demonstration against the system that tells us that Esek Hopkins’ former home is worth preserving. We are choreographing for the revolution.

The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins shares the stories, cultures and choreography of the Haus of Glitter’s Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Laotian ancestors. A fabulation created to imagine the missing stories from the legacy of Esek Hopkins’ disastrous slaving voyage on "sally", this activist dance opera (with original script + score) imagines what would life would be like today if colonization or slavery never happened by telling the story of a single Black person lost on the voyage, imagining her story, family, and emotions.


Photos: Allam Mella


When we say “historic restoration”, whose restoration are we referring to? “THE HISTORICAL FANTASY OF ESEK HOPKINS” is a multimedia dance opera + album + film + curriculum + graphic novel + coloring book + community ritual + historic intervention by The Haus of Glitter Dance Company + Performance Lab - part of a two-year PARKIST Artist Residency with the Providence Parks Dept. & The Dept. of Art+Culture+Tourism at the former Historic Esek Hopkins Homestead & Park (1754). In solidarity & collaboration with our community, our practice aims to investigate lineage & to shift the energetic center of the universe towards Queer Feminist BIPOC Wisdom, Healing, & Collective Liberation. We have been rehearsing for the revolution.

From Jan 1, 2020 - Dec 31, 2021, we are living in the former home of Esek Hopkins, widely known as the first commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. During this term, Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) tortured British prisoners of war, disobeyed orders to protect his interest in the human slave trade, & profited from the war. During the period after the revolution, when RI merchants controlled 60-90 percent of the transatlantic slave trade, Esek was hired to command the slave ship “Sally” to purchase kidnapped humans from the coast of Africa & bring them to America, land of the free, to be sold into slavery. Why is there a middle school named after him full of brilliant Black & Brown children down the street? Why is his house, a symbol of white supremacy, worth preserving as it’s been when it could be returned into a space that feels free for all humans? What does it mean for our Queer PoC Glitter Family to be living, creating, liberating, fighting, feeling, & healing here?

Everything we create here, with this Earthspace, aims to honor the bodies, minds, & souls lost to the plague of white supremacy; the legacy of creativity & activism we inherited from our ancestors, & the human beings who were stolen, tortured & brought to the Americas on the slave ship Sally. This dance opera, a story of mermaids, revolution, and resilience, tells of how our lineages intersect with the Esek Hopkins' legacy of white supremacy. We are subverting the truth we inherited by imagining nameless, underrepresented & erased Queer/Femme/BIPOC lives as fully realized humans with bodies & stories & movement.


Photos: Rey Londres

Artist Statement

Our project, THE HISTORICAL FANTASIES OF ESEK HOPKINS, will be the culmination of our 2-year PARKIST Artist Residency in the Esek Hopkins Homestead + Park. In addition to sharing the stories, cultures and choreography of the Haus of Glitter’s Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Laotian ancestors, this project shares a FANTASY that we have created to imagine the missing stories from the legacy of Esek Hopkins; to imagine what would life would be like today if colonization or slavery never happened; to rehearse for a world that centers healing, care and community.

In our research, however, the story we couldn’t stop thinking about was the story of the womxn who hung herself on the first voyage of the slaveship “Sally”. What if we imagined just one single Black person as a fully realized human — with a story, a family, emotions? Someone who could scream, cry, and shout? By nature of her choice, Esek Hopkins and his men had to deliberately throw her individual human body into the Atlantic Ocean. Did they look her in the eyes too? The archives were not enough to do justice to this womxn.

THE HISTORICAL FANTASY OF ESEK HOPKINS: a multimedia dance opera + album + curriculum + coloring book + graphic novel + historic intervention begins with the story of this womxn — her life, and the legacy that she birthed on the first voyage of the slaveship Sally. We believe we are carrying on her movement, to refuse complicity, to refuse oppression, to refuse silence.


Photos: Rey Londres


For us, creating this dance opera is a step towards creating a local industry for Black and Brown dancers here in Rhode Island. We are tired of graduating brilliant Black and Brown dancers into the world with no place for them to continue creating. The Festival Ballet Providence cannot be the only space for a professional dancer to work and perform in our city. It is a disservice to our community for brilliant, creative thinkers, movers, dreamers and makers to not be thinking, moving, dreaming and making with support, resources, mentorship and community.

Ultimately, one of our hopes for the development of this work to be an advocacy tool to prepare the community for our proposal to the Providence Commemorative Works Commission and Board of Commissioners, to reinterpret Esek Hopkins’ former house as a Contemporary Liberation Museum with programming for young artists to train in the Afro-Latinx diaspora. Additionally, The Haus of Glitter Dance Company is working with the Department of Art + Culture + Tourism on two major projects for 2022 and beyond: 1) transforming a historic church into a dance performance venue and 2) transforming a former public school building into an alternative post-secondary artist residency for young BIPOC artists in the “missing middle” to get training, support and experience as yoga and meditation practitioners, teaching artists, choreographers, transdisciplinary artists, earthworkers and community organizers.


Photos: Rey Londres

Justice Statement

We believe that we cannot think ourselves out of racism. We need to feel ourselves out of racism - & this is the power of art. Dance Education still centers European & Assimilationist tradition. African dance, Bachata, Salsa, Vogue, Dancehall, House, & Hip-Hop have been consistently marginalized & criminalized since dancing and drumming was made illegal on plantations. I dream of the day when our BIPOC community can purchase tickets to the largest performing arts centers in our state, to watch local BIPOC art & truth.

Our choreography is a disruption of the historical archives — to make it known in time and space that there are stories missing from the picture we’ve painted of Esek Hopkins; to remember that our daily life is choreography in the making. Our legacy in West African & Latinx Dance feels especially important to represent the contributions & systemic violence against BIPOC people in the context of Esek Hopkins’ story. From colonization, slavery, gentrification, centralization, migration, internalization & refuge, our work teaches where Contemporary Hip-Hop & Afro-Latinx dance comes from - where we all come from. Not only does our work represent bodies of color, but the content of our work represents the stories, truths, colors, shapes, & vibrations that live in our bones. Our process of choreographing attempts to strip away the symptoms of trauma that plague us & embody the process of being together - of manifesting - that our ancestors were fighting for.


Photos: Rey Londres

Project Partners

Yeredon (Djoumanzana, Mali) - cultural preservation curriculum development + Afro diasporic training

TAPA - curriculum partner + youth ensemble cast (HoG is leadership + faculty for the 7-12th grade)

AS220 - curriculum partner + racial justice initiative (HoG is leadership + faculty for afterschool arts program)

RISCA - hired HoG for self-care + mindfulness programming + grant funding

Mass Moca Assets for Artists - hired HoG for “Decolonizing Creative Practice” series + recipient of mentorship and consultation

Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading - cultural preservation curriculum development (HoG was the 2021 producer)

RI Black Storyteller - hired HoG to perform for the Annual Black Storytelling Festival “Fundafest”

PRONK + What Cheer Art Company - fiscal sponsor + incubator for public art + community organizing (HoG is on leadership team)

GG Collective - organizing + production + sister/parent organization

Park Studios PVD - audience experience curators

School for Embodied Praxis - spiritual care + programming admin + curriculum development

PVD Parks Department - Artist Residency

PVD Mayor’s Office + Art Culture Tourism + PVD Fest - production + mentorship in public art

Partnership for PVD Parks - fiscal sponsor for community engagement

Tikkun Film - film / documentation

Pushed Learning + Media - curriculum partner + school tour production

NEFA - Public Art Learning Fund grant

Open Farms + Movement Education Outdoors - rehearsal space + curriculum development


Photos: AM. (Anthony Andrade)

The Prologue: This Is My Haus

October 18, 2020 (PRONK! 2020)

Produced by: Jess Brown + The Haus of Glitter Dance Company + PRONK!

Art + Performance Director: Matt Garza

Dramaturgy: April Brown + Matt Garza + Seydou Coulibaly

Written by: Matt Garza + April Brown + Jess Brown +

Choreography: Assi Coulibaly + Matt Garza, Haus of Glitter Dance Company

Performers / Protestors: April Brown + Jess Brown + Assi Coulibaly + Simony + Anthony Andrade + Steven Choummalaithong + Matt Garza + Trent Lee + Alexx Temena

Honored Guest Performers: Seydou Coulibaly, Moussa Coulibaly, Darlene Andrade, Jada Littlejohn, The Eastern Medicine Singers, Haus of Caribe, Manny Escobar, Clam Jam Brass Band

Hair: Simony

Costumes: Noel Puello

Makeup: Anthony Andrade + Abigail Page

Floral Art: Darlene Andrade + What Cheer Flower Company + Whole Foods

Floral Sculpture: Helen + Sussy Santana

Photography: Stephanie Ewens (above), Allam Mella

Videography: Preston Powell, Court King (Instagram Live), Julio Berroa (Facebook Live)

Community Spotlight Organizations: Movement Education Outdoors, The Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading, RIBS: RI Black Storytellers, black earth lab, YIA: Youth In Action