VISCERAL, EXCITING, COMPELLING AND EMOTIONAL — “SHE POEMS” DELIVERS CONTEMPORARY PERFORMANCE AT ITS BEST
Returning to this year’s JOMBA! is Spanish recipient of the Pina Bausch fellowship 2021 for dance and choreography, and for her lifetime commitment to the dialogue on decolonization: Aïda Colmenero Dïaz, with She Poems.
Described as a collection of dance pieces/short films and photographs, She Poems is a multimedia feast for the senses. Conceived in 2013 and spanning over 13 countries — Dïaz’s mandate is to offer a “little window” into other worlds. She describes the creative process as one that not only serves to challenge its collaborators but aims to cross borders — both physical and inner. This is achieved in a creative work that comprises 6 “vignettes” from countries across the continent — including South Africa, Tanzania, and Senegal to name a few.
Utilising poetry and conversations as their springboard the pieces explore a diversity of themes strongly connected to the experiences of women. Picture a busy market square in Dar Es Salaam: a woman in a flame-coloured dress performs a series of contained almost convulsive gestures, punctuated by the hugging of strangers. The movements evoke a birthing, growing with urgency until compelled to move — she breaks into a run — darting between the curious onlookers. In an open field a woman is involved with a push and pull between herself and the landscape.
In other vignettes movements evoking calm and serenity are subverted to a climactic, disturbing embodiment of the grotesque. Artistic use of sound and cinematography serve to create a powerful and engaging experience — whereby the audience is simultaneously participant and voyeur,confronted and invited into the performance, crossing borders. Dïaz emphasizes the experiential possibility of the work, inviting audiences to journey with the performers by engaging with the experience through the auditory and visual senses rather than purely trying to comprehend through the cerebral.
For me, the power of dance lies in what it evokes through experience, and this is the ultimate strength and power of She Poems; sound combining both breath, song and music is perforated with that of the environment. A woman dressed in a black dress that doubles as a shroud moves through the streets with the sound of crows in the trees. Later she performs a song, acapella, a guttural lament, one comprehends these moments beyond the literal or boundaries of language, they are translated exquisitely, vividly, painfully through the body. A woman moves through water — a realm of memory; later, she performs a series of gestures that emanate from the gut — unravelling. In another performance — the dancer engages in a moment of stillness, wide-eyed, at once stricken with both fear and brazenness she confronts the camera — not a word is spoken and yet everything is said.
She Poems is contemporary performance at its best. Visceral, exciting, compelling, and emotional. It is a privilege to witness.