- Claire Sawers
- 14 October 2019
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V/DA’s performance of sound, visuals and choreography is a bold and sensual challenging of perceptions of African and Caribbean dance
Eyeballs strain in the mostly white audience, as they work hard to make out shapes in the inky blackness. The stage is pitch dark, except for a few glinting angles in the back corner. These shiny, crystalline edges ripple vaguely; a tense, deliberately frustrating but intriguing slow burn of a start to director / choreographer Mele Broomes’ excellent sound and dance piece Grin, first performed as a work in progress at Glasgow’s experimental performance night Buzzcut Double Thrills and Montreal’s avant-garde arts festival, OFFTA/La Serre.
Grin‘s title comes from Maya Angelou’s 1987 spoken word poem which starts with the line, ‘We wear the mask that grins and lies / It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes’. Grin keep its mask on tight for the opening section, only letting us catch flashes of brightness as two glittery silver costumes catch a chink of light for a second then slide back into the shadows. It’s a teasing intro – setting boundaries, making the room wait, refusing to be forced, before a pink light glows on the stage and shapes become more obvious. Artists Divine Tasinda and Levent Nyembo shuffle in round shimmering suits, making wonky angles like disco Pingus before giving way to a much more sensual sequence.
Congolese Glaswegian Tasinda is backlit and silhouetted by Dav Bernard’s strong, simple lighting design as she strobes her body expertly in pulsing jerks, before lying on the ground and tensing her fishnet-wrapped glutes in time with Patricia Panther’s dark, bassy soundtrack. Elsewhere euphoric drumming and dancehall rhythms shake positive vibes into the room as the dancers get more and more loose and joyful, defiantly refusing ‘to be rendered abject’.
Reviewed at Tramway, Glasgow, part of Dance International Glasgow.