Exploring Africa through embodied poetry in “She Poems”
by Vicki Galloway-Place
The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs - Charles Baudelaire
When I read the programme for the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, the performance She Poems immediately stood out to me as one to watch. Always looking for female solidarity and for women to be in the spotlight, I was intrigued by this inimitable female-based performance project. Feeling privileged to have been able to preview She Poems I can tell you it does not disappoint!
The performance itself is made up of seven dances which take the form of a series of short films, carefully curated by choreographer Aïda Colmenero Dïaz. The project is an ongoing one, having reached 13 countries so far. Dïaz comments that the project has crossed borders, both literally and symbolically, by pushing her and her performance collaborators’ inner borders further than ever before — a fitting concept considering the 2021 festival theme. Dïaz set out with the challenge of creating new work in ways she has never worked before with JOMBA! providing the perfect platform to showcase the dancers’ responses to a range of profound poems.
Dïaz touches on an interesting idea in her introduction when she says, “I would like to say to the audience, enjoy the experience of these short films, just open your heart your eyes to experience the beautiful image, experience the image, the voice, experience the sounds of the short films. Not trying to understand with head in a narrative way”. This is sound advice, however, as a wordsmith and storyteller myself, knowing that each of the separate performances were responses to carefully selected poems, I did find myself considering what those words were that evoked such powerful performances from each of the female performers.
As an audience member you are transported into the dances in unique ways that only a digital platform can provide. The considered camera angles, the raw, live settings from abandoned buildings, to fields, to open water, bustling cities, to the roof of an abandoned car. Scenes which quickly cut to take you to a different time and place, sometimes the dance is frantic and urgent and in other moments it is slow and fluid. Always, it is sharing with you something profound… which is why I so want to know what the words were that inspired them!
The sound direction enhances the individual stories: from the sounds of the city to the powerful haunting female solo singing, from heavy breathing to the cries of the female soul. Each sound amalgamated with the setting, the dance and the filming and provides the audience with a thoughtful sense of the messages behind the movement, proving that you don’t actually need to know each language to understand it’s meaning.
Dïaz has challenged herself and her performers in many ways. Her initial advice of being in the moment, to experience the stories stands up well. You are immediately drawn in due to the entire considerations of each individual vignette. I have always loved the fluidity that theatre performances provide us with as creatives. Theatre enables time and location to be fluid allowing ever changing methods of telling stories. Dïaz takes this further. Short sharp scenes, the use of natural lighting and dancers looking pointedly into the camera, giving us the sense that every ‘she’ is seeing into your soul. You can do nothing but be drawn into each and every moment.
She Poems has given the global dance community so much already and yet I feel there is so much more to come as the project grows and organically develops depending on the poetry and the people Dïaz collaborates with. This truly unique performance is one definitely not to be missed and will be screened as part of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience on Sunday 5th September at 7pm SAST time.