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How Davóne Tines Uses Fashion to Explore Race and Identity In His New Opera Anthem

Written by IhebQld

Working with the likes of John Adams, the acclaimed American composer and musical conductor, eventually led him to begin writing his own compositions. “I wanted to do things that I felt I had a need for, I was drawn to things I felt I needed to personally grapple with,” he tells me about the pieces he’s developed since, which include Black Clown, a piece he co-created with his friend Zack Winokur that was commissioned by the American Repertory Theater and is now in the works to go to Broadway; as well as a recital series, and a concerto series, which he performed last night.

“Utilizing aesthetic presentation as a way of completing the narrative is something that’s not really engaged with, I think, to the classical music world’s own detriment,” he explains. In his case, Tines uses fashion as a tool not just for self-expression, but to also claim agency as a minority figure in the predominantly white spaces he often engages with. “I just think it’s instinctual for people who are minorities to say, what am I signaling?

He adds, “If I’m a Black person who dresses in a very preppy New England way, or if I’m a Black gay person who decides to lean into a certain sexual aspect of self presentation, what does that say?”

Tines often chooses clothes that have a deeper meaning to him as a performer than what may be perceived by the audience. When he performed a piece about Breonna Taylor, for example, he wore Wales Bonner. “I was introduced to her work by a stylist I’ve worked with, Julio Cesar Delgado,” he says, adding that he found meaningful not only the ethos behind the designer’s work, but also to be dressed by a Black woman to memorialize a Black woman.

A sketch by Brandon Murphy / Photo: Raven Daniels  Courtesy of Davóne Tines

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