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Program 1 of Haiti Cultural Exchange's 'Selebrasyon' was thought-provoking and beautiful

by Bonnie Rosenstock
June 1, 2018
Hudson Guild Theatre
441 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 760-9800
From May 6-June 29 the Haiti Cultural Exchange is presenting the 3rd Biennial Celebration of Haitian Art and Culture in multiple venues throughout the city. The two-month “selebrasyon” will feature 25 events and bring together over 30 emerging, mid-career and established artists from Haiti and its diaspora to highlight Haitian culture (film, dance, music, literature and the visual arts), its creative foundations and legacy rooted in social justice, identity and freedom.

This year, the organization has partnered with the Hudson Guild Theatre’s Cultural Kaleidoscope Festival’s Pangaea Dance Series (June 1-23), presented in collaboration with Sans Limites Dance, curated by Diana Pettersen. Named after the supercontinent that existed before separating into the seven land masses, Pangaea aspires to unite dance forms, choreographers, musicians and artists from all regions of the world. (Full disclosure, the Guild’s Cultural Kaleidoscope Festival includes a group art show in its Gallery, which celebrates diversity of expression, May 31-July 25, in which I am exhibiting two photographs.)

I attended first night, Program A on June 1, which featured five culturally diverse groups. It opened with the least interesting piece, “an untitled work” for four women and one man, choreographed by Mersiha Mesihovic of Circuitdebris. A dancer adjusts a camera downstage and checks her hair. At the end of the piece, she removes the camera. A recurrent movement theme consisted of a lot of twitching and bouncing. There were also smooth circular movements up and down from the floor with rounded arms. Sometimes the movements were sharp, sometimes not clearly defined at all. Towards the end, four of the dancers put black plastic bags over their heads. More bounces, twitches. By the end, I felt like twitching.

“Prohibit 20’00” was a riveting duet, choreographed and performed by Chinese-born Guanglei Hui with Tsai Hsi Hung, co-founders of the New York-based Cross Move Lab. On a dark stage Hui lit four lanterns. Both performers were dressed indistinguishably in grey culottes and dark tops with their hair in low ponytails. The lack of music kept our rapt attention on the beauty of their performance. Hung jumps on Hui’s back, places her hand over her mouth. He slides across the floor with her in this position. She moves downstage towards the audience, places her hand over her mouth again. He slips his hands under her arms and carries her upstage, her body lifted and unmoving. The third time he does this, she fights him. They roll over each other. They perform a series of movements, leaning forward, asses up. She stands on his back again, hand once more over her mouth. Bent over, he carries her slowly. There is a low sound like a chant or a soft, understated drum. Sitting, they bite their own big toe a few times. They slide on their butts, they lift themselves part way, they fold, lean against each other. He extinguishes the lanterns. She stands on him again.

Pettersen, who is herself a kaleidoscope of multi-culturalism with Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, Norwegian and Irish roots, performed “Flamenquena,” a structured solo improvisation rooted in her flamenco training. “Wearing a flamenco skirt (symbolizing traditional femininity) and Timberland boots (symbolizing traditional masculinity), this work embodies the human fight to conquer gender-normativity by executing movement and manipulating materials/objects that are traditionally associated with opposite genders, thus making the movement and objects/materials genderless,” she stated. She was accompanied by The F-Tones, a violin and guitar duo.

According to its website, Movement of the People Dance Company (MOPDC), founded in 2005 by Joya Powell, “is dedicated to unearthing historic and present sociocultural injustices through dance.” “Whose Land is it Anyway,” by Powell, in collaboration with the five women dancers and MOPDC, is the question of the moment. It was a well-performed, thought-provoking dance theater piece with each of the performers from different cultural backgrounds talking about their family history and ancestry. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” was a recurrent theme.

“Untamed Space: Entrada Sankofa” was by Chicago native, now Brooklyn-based choreographer André M. Zachery, founder of the Renegade Performance Group. In his website’s artist statement, Zachery explains that he “conceives work pulling from the practices of Black contemporary culture and expression through the body, technology and media…to frame issues of self-identification, communal understanding, diaspora lineage and non-binary empowerment.” This beautiful work sans hi tech (except for canned music) was elegantly performed by Zachery and three svelte, long-legged women, the very tallest of whom was his wife, the exquisite Candace Thompson-Zachery.

Haiti Cultural Exchange, 558 St. Johns Place, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Website: HaitiCulturalX.org, email: info@haiticulturalx.org. (347) 565-4429. Hudson Guild Theatre Festival Schedule, June 1-23: www.hudsonguild.org/events. Reservations: http://bit.ly/2rcuFh6. (212) 760-9837.
Flamenquena

Flamenquena

Photo © & courtesy of Claire J Saintil/CjArtPhotographie


Prohibit 20'00

Prohibit 20'00

Photo © & courtesy of Claire J Saintil/CjArtPhotographie


Untamed Space: Entrada Sankofa

Untamed Space: Entrada Sankofa

Photo © & courtesy of Tequila Minsky


Whose Land is it Anyway?

Whose Land is it Anyway?

Photo © & courtesy of Tequila Minsky


an untitled work

an untitled work

Photo © & courtesy of Claire J Saintil/CjArtPhotographie

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