Friday, February 7, 2014

Mafa Makhubalo

Dance Immersion’s twenty year anniversary event showcased a diverse selection of choreography as an ensemble of men - and one woman - took the stage in an impressive array of  explosive, at times contemplative presentations. Ranging from moving liberationist narratives to syncopated ensembles, all of the artists managed to simultaneously unite and separate themselves from each other as they revealed distinct and expressive physical presence.
Sani-Abu Mohammed

In Breaking Out, the second piece in the program, the appearance of a single dancer - after the opening ensemble entered in flowing white skirt like costumes and bare torsos - reflected the other men’s free flowing dance play with a vivacity and rapid muscularity of shoulder movement that dazzled and punctuated the already beautifully stated lines of Patrick Parson’s choreography. Although described as “masculine, strong and virile” the four men were able to represent “the essence of the graceful male dancer” alongside more traditional gender modes, giving the overall piece, and the evening in general, an amazing variety of emotional, sensual, and physical fervor-cum-sensitivity.
Shavar Blackwood
One piece later in the program, entitled Katuma, possessed a strong performance element that began with a subtle and evocative entrance as Casimiro Nhussi deftly played “the old man, the savvy, whose music and dance is part of his life.” Nhussi seamlessly melded the ponderous steps of a slow moving man with a cane into the fierce, fulsome, and sharply defined lines of his own choreography, culminating in a finale that bore the essence of freedom through the commingling of mind, spirit, and body.

Amanda Benn, in Land of My Soul, simply and powerfully delineated Mafa Makhubalo’s gestural choreographic poses as testament to political upheaval and the struggle to attain unity and freedom, while Shavar Blackwood’s This Woman’s Work gave three men the opportunity to move beautifully, together and apart, through the gorgeous strains of the Kate Bush song of the same name. In unbuttoned black shirts, and plain black trousers, Irvin Washington, Matthew Cuff, and Shavar Blackwood created a virile and ethereal homage to the male body, the music, and the movement as they gave distinctly defined impressions of masculinity and self-assured grace. 

Evolution, the opening dance segment, utilized powerful drumming and traditional African dance rhythms that “follows through modern technologies and continues with the rite of passage…after one’s life circle, [ending] with the rhythms from traditional instruments praising ancestors.” The ensemble of four musicians and one dancer created a striking, high energy introduction, replete with skilful agility and physical power alongside the equally resounding and evocative musical accompaniment.
Shawn Byfield

Shawn Byfield danced through his own joyful creation Funk For Your Feet with impeccable timing and a strong connection to the audience as he engaged spectators with a fully committed expressiveness, beautifully supported by Sharon DiGenova’s very focused lower body lighting that allowed the beating rhythms of Byfield's dance shoes to play a starring role in this high charged rapid fire presentation.

Casimiro Nhussi

BaKari I. Lindsay’s Blood Memory, danced by Lindsay himself, offered a pensive, beautifully conceived meditation that suggested the many planes of gender and heritage that one man chooses to explore. Supported by a gorgeous red costume - both skirt and pants existing alongside each other - the vibrant red fabric, with sheer form fitting upper lines and opaque lower body contours - gave the varied movement a simultaneous combination of free flowing grace and muscular prowess befitting the layers of physical and emotional experience that the dancer embodied.

Living In the Moment, choreographed by Mikhail Morris - danced by Morris himself, alongside Benton Morris, Renaldo Barrett, Dorrian Brown, and Brandon Owusu - ended the evening with a spectacular, epic expression of “spiritual connection (African) and experience of one’s past whether it’s good or bad in the abstract format of expression, of one’s soul in the present day.”

The overall evening was a strong and engaging testament to twenty years of Dance Immersion’s commitment to a diverse range of social and political themes within past and contemporary cultural environments. Vivine Scarlett’s (founder, program director, curator) program notes state clearly and powerfully the company’s mandate as she articulates the value of this recent celebration of men in dance;

“In recognition of the contributions by all men who continue to expand their knowledge, raise children, and engage in a multitude of activities that result in positive contributions to themselves and the world; this presentation dismisses the violent images we see and hear about Black males in the media. It is designed to offer a positive view of dance styles representative of the diverse voices that contribute to the Canadian arts ecology..”


Bakiri I. Lindsay

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