Neptune, Black Venus, Ruins

Moving Futures festival is organized by ICK Artist Space (formerly Dansmakers Amsterdam), Dansateliers, DansBrabant, Random Collision and Generale Oost, a network of partners aiming to to support emergent choreographers. Like many festivals this year, Moving Futures has gone online from 22 – 29 April. On 24 April I tuned in to the Triple Bill by Lois Alexander and Fubunation, on Studio X, the online platform hosted by Korzo Theater.

The first work is by Lois Alexander. Neptune features the choreographer herself dancing among big blocks of ice that hang from chains. In this scenography by Nina Kay, Alexander moves around fluidly, like water. She interacts with the hanging blocks, pushing them, admiring them. In between the sections on stage we see her on film, speaking to the camera, explaining her research into social structures affecting women of colour and other topics. She wants to explore the in-between spaces of discernible movement languages and labels. On the stage, I look for the way she turns this statement into movement. Water drips onto the stage floor, which allows her to slide and move swiftly, making her one with the element. She uses the properties of the mutable element as a tool to explore shifting identities. However, although the movements are beautifully executed, they remain very much in line with the prevailing contemporary movement fashion on the stages.

Neptune by Lois Alexander | photo: Oliver Look

Next up is Black Venus, Lois Alexander’s latest work, a short movie revolving around the African Diaspora, spirituality, motherhood, and the representation of women of colour. Here too, movement is intertwined with text. Most of the video shows a blurred body, moving harmoniously. At times it shows an image of the artist herself, a portrait staged like a futuristic Venus in silver tones, gracefully posing with a crown around her head and gazing intensely towards the camera. Perhaps the work aims to challenge our perception of black women in a playful revisitation of the archetype.

The last piece of this evening, Ruins, is a film by the Fubunation dance collective. This work is a part of a larger set of works, an interdisciplinary project using different media such as video, live performance and photography. Rhys Dennis and Waddah Sinada, the founders of the collective and performers in the film, examine masculine representation within the African Diaspora.

Shot at the V&A museum in London, the duet is a composition of crafted movements impressively set amongst (or set off against) the museum’s Renaissance paintings and majestic stairs. Contextualizing this work in an establishment founded at the height of British imperialism is possibly a way to reclaim the power of formerly oppressed bodies. These bodies are dancing powerfully, moving at ease, in this space charged with so much history. The intimacy between the dancers adds a delicate and vulnerable quality to the images. Still, the exploration goes no further than an aesthetic essay of contact improvisation with hip hop influences.

During the Zoom after-talk, I listen with great interest to each artist’s perspectives on the works and processes. Both Lois Alexander and the Fubunation collective work with local communities and strive to facilitate spaces of care. Their artistry is intrinsically intertwined with their historical and sociopolitical heritage, as well as with the urgent conversations currently held.

In the works’ movement language and compositional choices, I note that these works do not fall too far from the contemporary dance mould, despite the desire to break away from traditional discourse, western, white-dominated movement languages and codified techniques. It is a stylistic tendency I have seen before in pieces that bring these urgent discussions to the stage through dance, and one that makes the artistic outcomes somewhat homogenous. Acknowledging my own bias as a white, western viewer and writer, I have to wonder if this is because I come to these works with this particular frame of reference.

Moving Futures

Featured photo: Amelia Lancaster