Power, passion and pizazz combined in a true celebration of cultural identity last night at The Place. Kick-starting the (quite literal) celebrations was a melodramatic, in-your-face performance from Duckworth and Persson...Or should I say ‘Kitty Sparkles’ and co.? Offering a refreshingly light-hearted perspective on the subject of gender commodity, the duo combined gold props, ‘cheesy’ dancing, and comedic audio-visuals in a journey of self-discovery. The exuberant concoction of catwalk modelling, drag performance and self-reflexivity was rather busy in nature; however there did seem to be an underlying motif of personal acceptance. Brave enough to embrace self-satire, the pair fully embodied gender stereotypes in a comedic, yet insightful piece that reflected on the judgemental nature of modern society.
Starkly contrasting to the extravagancy of Well Lit, Fergus’ stripped-back piece was both personal and moving. In a performance clearly crafted from the heart, the solo dancer shifted in and out of the shadows, using repeated movement phrases taken from traditional hip-hop culture. A simplistic background monologue corresponded with the dancing, and what resonated with me was how the strong regional dialect added a beautiful sense of humbleness to the piece. Using pauses to great effect, Fergus allowed time for reflection on her message, which was both enriching and empowering.
Hard-hitting and raw, Malaolu’s I Can’t Breathe brought not only an end to the night, but tears to my eyes. It was clear from the start that the dancers’ connection with each other spanned far beyond the physicality of their movement. In a cleverly-constructed piece, Malaolu paid particular attention to detail through his contrasting choice of costume and effective use of lighting. Demonstrating their multi-faceted ability, the performers provided most of their own background audio; adding a personal touch to an already-compassionate piece. It was heartening to see how the remarkable technicality of their movement did not overshadow the duo’s sense of playfulness and almost-brotherly affinity. But beyond the performance itself was an indescribably warm feeling of unity between the dancers and audience. Such is the power of dance, I left feeling enlightened and strongly connected to people I didn’t even know!
First up, beguiling choreographer/performers Anders Duckworth & Daniel Persson investigate their complex identities by calling on the worlds of fashion and gender politics A visually striking, androgynous pair, Persson, tossing around his glossy black hair, describes his complicated Korean/Swedish pedigree, while the languorous blonde Duckworth ruminates on his British/Swedish/gender fluid one. Performing as cat-walk models they strut up and down their runway, throwing in bizarre, zagged poses and ‘consume me’ glances, slipping effortlessly between masculinity and femininity. They unpack these categories further through hair swishing choreography and arguments about correct terminology. Or they cavort awkwardly to music like two self-conscious kids trying to upstage one another. This is where we lose them. Well Lit while effectively blurring identity edges, needs some tight editing to really deliver the punch it promises.
In a bold yet introverted solo, Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus travels through a grid of lit squares. She’s reflective, almost tentative at first. She hesitates, revisits movement patterns then progresses, as if she’s recalling a journey. Fragments of her mother’s recorded voice, piece together to describe a nostalgic trip to Brixton after a 20 year period. The richness of her mum’s wistful tones and Fergus’ enquiring, gestural dance vocabulary movingly convey the sadness that gentrification and change can bring. The bond between mother and daughter is also strengthened through the poetic, embodied meditations on this once dynamic black community.
Lanre Malaolu ‘s courageous piece is a tour de force. By the end the impact of his choreographic re-enactment of racism’s destructiveness, reduces audience members to tears. Joined by the tall and equally brilliant Laurynas Godvaisa, Malaolu viscerally embodies some of the appalling racist stereotypes in a blend of explosive hip- hop and imaginative locking. Controlled by white, powerful Godvaisa, he becomes a gibbering ape; he’s sculpted (by Godvaisa) into a thieving pick- pocketer and a violent mugger. His self-esteem as a suited professional is chiselled away by the white man until he can hardly utter the words “I can’t breathe.”