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How to be afraid?


How to Be Afraid? is a transatlantic collaboration between mayfield brooks (NYC) and Mary Pearson (Liverpool) that explores fear as an antidote to counteract the trauma of their different but connected links to the transatlantic slave trade.

We stage verbalized duels, choreograph scare tactics or, come to tears and laughter as a practice toward witnessing -- with hopes that engaging audiences with this work will allow all of us to witness together. In this, we might find respite, and learn, How to Be Afraid.

We study how history warps memory in real time and even in our relationship, and we seek healing knowing that there are no solutions. However, our separate but connected racialised historical realities inform us of the journey towards repair work and eventually reparations.

Photo: Jane MacNeil Image: Mary Pearson and mayfield brooks


Research Space at Independent Dance

May 24-28

This iteration of How to be Afraid? included a week of practice, discussion, collaboration and performance. Joined by collaborators Akeim Toussaint Buck, Seke Chimutengwende, Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot and Amy Voris.

ID legacy page

February 12th, 2021 

Improvisations with interference: Haunted by histories, guided by ghosts, (online performance)

Performed from three studio locations – New York, Liverpool and London - mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Seke Chimutengwende attempt collective clairvoyance. 

see 10min excerpt

Performance and Residency at Newstead Abbey

July 4-17, 2021

How to Be Afraid? was in residence at Newstead Abbey, a stately home in Nottinghamshire, in reckoning with its past and links to the transatlantic slave trade.

During the residency, in collaboration with Ben Harriott and Amanda Russell, we made a digital film :

Darkness: She was the Universe

March 9, 2021

Haunting Newstead Abbey, (online panel discussion)

Facilitated by Season Butler. mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Seke Chimutengwende discuss their choreographic research.

Project History


June 12-13th, 2020

online conference Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair.


HTBA? joined with Jennifer Verson and Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid to create Proximity. Due to take place at the Bluecoat, Liverpool in June, it moved online due to Covid-19. 

Together on Zoom during Black Lives Matter protests, brooks and Pearson developed an improvisational practice using the question ‘What are you afraid of right now?’ Live-streamed conversations with guest Seke Chimutengwende.


November 4-7th, 2019,  Improspections festival, Zagreb, Croatia

improvisation and performance workshop for professionals 


November 8th, 2019, Contemporary Museum of Art, Zagreb

How to Be Afraid? performance, embodying dynamics as they emerge from ongoing dialogues about race, nations state borders, and colonial theft. 


How to Be Afraid? began in urgent response to Trump’s election and Charlottesville. 3 years before Colston’s statue was toppled, brooks and Pearson were practicing a falling score around monuments commemorating Liverpool’s links to slavery. We choreographed scare tactics and caught each other whilst both falling.

December 1st,  2017, Metal Culture, Liverpool

WIP performance & lab with NW-based female choreographers


December 2nd, Chisenhale Dance Space, London

WIP performance and audience discussion


December 2-3rd, Goldsmiths College, London

workshop ‘Rupture meets FAILURE Lab’ for dancers and art students

Created and performed by Mary Pearson and mayfield Brooks


Supported by

Newstead Abbey residency co-commissioned by dance artist Eleanor Sikorski (with support from Arts Council England), Dancing Museums 2 and Dance4.

Research Space co-produced by Mary Pearson, mayfield brooks and Independent Dance in partnership with The Bluecoat (Liverpool) and CPR – Center for Performance Research (New York), supported through public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and with support from Creative Land Trust.

Earlier iterations were supported by public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and by Chisenhale Dance Space, Metal (Liverpool), Improspections Festival at the Museum for Contemporary Art, Zagreb and the GPS/Global Practice Sharing program of Movement Research (NYC) with funding from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and in collaboration with Migrant Artists' Mutual Aid.

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