Contemporary dance takes centre stage at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain, this evening and tomorrow evening as Makeda Thomas, dancer, choreographer and artistic director of the Makeda Thomas Dance and Performance Institute, presents two new works, Moreechika and Palm Oil Rosary ReCall. The Dance and Performance Institute opened in 2010 and is growing into an international community of dance and performance artistes and a forum for cultural and social exchange. It's also an umbrella for a series of programmes on contemporary dance and performance. Thomas says Moreechika, by Ananya Dance Theatre, and Palm Oil Rosary: ReCall, by Chris Walker, were commissioned for her New Waves Commission Project.
"I curated these works because each foregrounds embodied knowledge and reflects an artist's longstanding relationship with dance artistes here in T&T, through the Dance & Performance Institute. The Local Dance Commission Programme supports the local dance community by nurturing the creation of new dance work and premieres that new work to a wide audience. "The International Choreographer's Commission Programme (ICCP) further positions T&T as a major site in the production of new choreographic works by international choreographers by supporting the creation of new dance work by choreographers from around the world." Moreechika, Thomas says, explores the effect that oil-drilling projects have on global communities of colour and portrays how women from these communities resist and survive systemic and hierarchical violences associated with these projects. It is the third performance in a four-year anti-violence artistic initiative that has been researching efforts among women from global communities of colour to resist "the violent and capitalist misuse of land, gold, oil, and water."
The production was created by Ananya Dance Theatre, a ten-member company of women artistes, primarily of colour, who are concerned with social justice. Palm Oil Rosary ReCall is the work of Jamaican dancer and choreographer Chris Walker and is his second version of the production. The presentation will include dance, movement, voice, drums, theatre and spoken word poetry, and will feature music by Andrea Bocelli and Abbaye Cisterciennes with traditional Kumina rhythms and text by the dancers. Walker is also collaborating with local artists Muhammad Muwakil, Marvin George, Camille Quamina, and Sheena Richardson. Walker said in an interview he feels honoured to have been considered by Thomas to present his production in T&T. "I was lucky to have been selected by Makeda as one of those persons whose work she is inspired by or whose work she feels is moving in the direction that she sees dance going, in terms of creating a holistic dance experience for participants." Walker presented Palm Oil Rosary in Trinidad last year.
"It was just a workshop piece. It was about growing up Catholic in Jamaica, while at the same time engaging the African religious spaces. Church was where I went as the weekend activity, but when challenges presented themselves, I always found myself in the African religious spaces," he said, highlighting that he spent his life contending with this duality, asking questions about what it meant and the physicality of it. After an attack on his life a few years ago, Walker said he felt he was going to die and found himself thinking about the force that made him live. As a result he felt the need to explore this duality in movement. He said during last year's presentation, male members of his audience were moved to tears and after the show they came to him and explained that they were touched by the expressions of movement portrayed. "We were able to have a conversation about it and that's also important to me.
When we create art, oftentimes it serves the community in the know. Very few people who understand the art that is taking place can really connect to it, so to reach a point of conversation and to dialogue about what we are seeing and experiencing-that's very good," he said. Thomas says she is moved that these works are receiving their world premieres in Trinidad. "It means that dance in Trinidad continues to have global significance and impact, as it has through lives and work of Beryl McBurnie, Pearl Primus and Geoffrey Holder. But it also means that we're creating a new legacy, a new line of flight where the possibilities of what it means to create art are exploded," Thomas said.
Both shows begin at 8 pm at the Dance Studio at NAPA. Tickets are $150 and are available online at www.makedathomas.org/tickets