Darling Shear’s White Man Sleeps @ Dfbl8r

Last night’s performance by Chicago’s Darling Shear capped off their week long residency The Way of the Healer at Dfbl8r.


Movement workshops were scheduled throughout the week, culminating in two 23 minute performances on Friday and Saturday night. White Man Sleeps takes its name from the song of the same name by Kevin Volans’ Kronos Quartet, which Darling danced to.

The sound piece is inspired by the African field workers that played music while the white male land owner slept. Darling is classically trained in ballet, modern, jazz, and African dance. Their movement for this piece transcends the work of Yvonne Rainer, as Shear’s biography as a black, post-gender artist narrates their composition.

An hour-long conversation occurred after the performance. Viewers remained in their seats which formed a circle bordering the edges of Dfbl8r’s new space in West Town. A brief two or three comments about the Darling’s mesmerizing  control of their body were conveyed as were observations of the artist’s relationship with the space. However, the conversation quickly turned towards focusing on Darling’s identity and their personal politics of living outside of the prescribed gender norms. The talk turned educational, and perhaps it always does, where the audiences’ curiosity dangles around the physicality of the artist living in the real world, not just in that moment, not just in the performance and dance.

Darling not only oscillates between male and female gestures, but between the polarizing landscape of performance and dance. White Man Sleeps poses questions of race, movement, sexuality and the hybridity of an artistic practice.

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