For 16 years now, the Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance (BAAD!) has celebrated Women’s History Month with its annual BAAD! Ass Women Festival.
Arthur Aviles, the artistic director at BAAD!, said the working title of the festival was originally “BAAD! Girls.”
“But then the women involved were saying, ‘I ain’t no girl! I’m a badass woman,’” he said. “So it became the BAAD! Ass Women Festival.”
This year, the festival features dance performances, an art exhibit, poetry, cabaret, talks and more. Choreographer and actress Noele Phillips has been working with the festival for eight years.
“I love working with the BAAD! Ass Women Festival, because I’m asked to come in during Women’s History Month and tell my stories,” she said.
“The festival celebrates women from different walks of life, from Audre Lorde to Michelle Obama, and the different things women go through as a whole,” she continued. “As a collective, women still go through similar things.”
Her own work, a solo dance piece performed on Saturday, told the story of a woman processing her breakup.
“Every woman has had that experience, regardless of whether she is gay or straight, or their race or class,” she said.
Ms. Phillips said she is especially looking forward to the conversation with Gloria I. Joseph, the last partner of famous black feminist and activist Audre Lorde, who died in 1992. That talk will take place on Tuesday, March 22.
“When you come to see events at BAAD!, you learn more about what’s going on in an area other than just your own section of the Bronx,” she said. “You gain some knowledge when you come to BAAD!”
Mr. Aviles said that desire to inform was the driving force behind the festival’s art exhibit, which features portraits of Bronx-based artists of color who are transgender and out.
“A lot of us don’t know who they are, so we want to give a space for that,” he explained.
Mr. Aviles acknowledged it is a little strange that the festival is run by two men: BAAD! Executive Director Charles Rice-Gonzalez and himself. At the beginning, Mr. Aviles thought he should step aside, but he said in fact, the women involved in the project encouraged him to remain in charge.
“The women around us were keeping us to task about how it is we are versus who it is they are,” he said. “I did think about leaving, but it’s about coming together.”
“The whole program is so good, it’s hard for me to pinpoint something,” he said. “That’s why we like to say, come on over to BAAD!, where it’s all good.”
The BAAD! Ass Women Festival runs through Saturday, March 26. All performances take place at BAAD!, located at 2474 Westchester Ave. Go to www.baadbronx.org for a list of performances and to buy tickets in advance. Members of the public can set up a time to view the exhibit by calling 718-918-2110.