Small movements, slightly twisting at the hips. But like a tremor before an earthquake, it signals larger shifts. Just then, the drums kick in and the dancers explode into the act of knocking – shaking, bobbing, slamming into the air with the force of those drums.
Great moments like these recur in “Fair Lies”, which lasted for hours Afro-Colombian company Sankofa Danzafro brought it back to the Joyce Theater this week. And those explosive drumming and dancing rekindled a stage where the Omicron tsunami had been dark and quiet since late December.
But as the title of the piece suggests, Rafael Palacios, the company’s director and choreographer, has more on his mind. A program note describes the work as a “strong call to awareness” that seeks to dispel stereotypes “about and around” about Black people’s bodies, addressing sexualization. and worshiped people of African descent through centuries of slavery and apartheid.
Several times, dancers lined up across the stage and a singer began calling prices in Spanish. It was an auction, connecting this show, this show of the Negro body, with the slave trade.
However, the auctioneer’s voice, dub into the drums, is so quiet and soothing that you can almost miss it. Such is the nature of this production, that the message and delivery are both strangely muted.
Much of the symbolism comes from the scenic design (by Álvaro Tobón), starting with the curtain at the back of the stage, made of straw like the kind used in the skirts of the Afro-Colombian slaves. ever worn. Through this fence, the dancers came in and out, the tangled ropes that sometimes clung to their bodies. Some of them also wore those dresses, tugging on ropes to show how they celebrated. Or a dancer might pull more rope, like one held by other performers, who wrap it around her in a maypole fashion.
The dance takes place in a series of passages, slow and prolonged before they break out, accompanied by many soothing flutes, ticking lullabies and marimbas, as well as the sound of percussion. A man who seemed to be fighting unseen opponents roared and collapsed. Another man picked him up, in a pietà-shaped cradle, then laid him down before reviving him with a convulsive, windmilling, reviving dance.
However, even with such increased intensity, it feels a bit weak or flickering. Even if the strength of the Afrikaans association with drums is enhanced with a hint of hip-hop, something that seems tentative, perhaps, has been retained. Could this be part of the message, a total rejection to the audience?
Or is it just Sankofa’s style? The job has a big end. The entire cast of eight dancers ascended the steps, throwing down their wildest, drum-beating strides and then gazing down at the audience from the lips of the stage. Auctioneers started again, now at higher prices. Go once. Go twice. Sold.
Come Sunday at Joyce Theatre, joyce.org.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/arts/dance/review-sankofa-danzafro-accommodating-lie.html Review: Afro-Colombian Dancing Reawakens Joyce . Theater