Saturday 22 January 2022

Stage: Let's get radical

Radical Visions
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells • 20-21.Jan.22

This Wild Card programme was presented as a series of seven separate elements over more than three hours. It included two dance pieces and a film in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells, while beforehand, during the interval and at the end, more informal events were held in the Fox Garden Cafe and Khan Room. Each portion of this evening reverberated with the spirit and energy of Britain's Black subculture, exploring issues of identity and legacy that are easy for everyone in the audience to connect with.

Inscribed in "Me"
choreographer-performer Alethia Antonia
composers Akeim Toussaint Buck & Mikel Ameen
lighting Ali Hunter

Slowly emerging from pitch-black, Antonia athletically perches atop a wooden crate, balancing and twisting, trying to escape its gravitational pull, then finally giving in and facing a whole new set of challenges. It's a remarkably controlled performance, urgent in its intense physicality and the vivid sense that she is being held, called, pushed and pulled by a force much greater than herself. Her physicality is simply stunning, muscular and passionate. The audience takes this journey with her, and it's so forceful that we often find ourself holding our breath as we wait the next flicker of free expression. It's focussed and utterly riveting.

Black Is...
by Fubunation
choreography Rhys Dennis & Waddah Sinada
performers Mayowa Ogunnaike, Rhys Dennis, Rose Sall Sao, Waddah Sinada
composer Sam Nunez
lighting Kieron Johnson

With strikingly angled lighting, this piece features four dancers undulating in various formations around the stage, creating shapes together and separately as each dancer forges his or her own identity within the group. It's a remarkably simple idea, effective in the way the choreography emerges from the centre of these focussed and seriously skilled dancers' bodies, vibrating to the rhythmic soundscape. The effect is often dazzling, shifting tempo from pulsating slow motion to race rapidly around the space. And while the actions are largely contained within the body, there are stunning moments of expansive movement that add an exhilarating soulfulness.

Radical Visions: music and spoken word
performers Lateshia Howell, Kai Larasi, Tatenda Naomi Matsvai, Muti Musafiri
musicians Amynata Adigada, Azizi Cole, Pariss Elektra, Otis Jones

During the interval, a team of performers gathers the crowd around them, delivering a series of spoken-word pieces with musical underscore that explore powerful themes connecting humanity to its ancestry and the universe. "Warrior blood runs through me," intones one poet, and another riffs on the fact that at our core each of us is a cosmic being. In between these, a dancer rallies the cast, musicians and audience to chant in celebration of radical visions. Perhaps these ideas aren't particularly radical, but they are delivered with an artistic skill that is utterly mesmerising, reenforcing big ideas that are easy for us to forget.

dir Akeim Toussaint Buck & Ashley Karrell
scr Akeim Toussaint Buck
with Akeim Toussaint Buck, Arthur France, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Pariss Elektra, Azizi Cole, Cleve 'Rev Chunky' Freckleton, Solomon Charles-Kelly, Lorina Gumbs
22/UK 40m

Expanded from Buck's original one-man dance theatre production Windows of Displacement, this beautifully shot and edited film plays out in self-contained chapters as performer Buck delivers words and movement from a variety of locations, connecting his personal legacy from his ancestors in Africa to his birth in Jamaica to his childhood and life in Britain. Scenes are shot on beaches, forests, city streets and inside a church, surrounded by fellow performers who celebrate human connections and commonality. It's a very clever piece, both warmly uplifting and sharply pointed. And watching it is an eye-opening experience, a reminder that each of us has a complex history that makes us who we are. We really need to stop defining people by whatever is the most obvious.

photos by Ashley Karrell, Camilla Greenwell, Sanaa Abstrakt • 20.Jan.22


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