Voodoo enthralls at The Old Market – review

As part of South East Dance’s micro-festival, Undisciplined, Voodoo comes to being as a collaboration between South East Dance and Project O. Project O brings artists Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small together, to give birth to work that re-evaluates dance as a radical enforcer for healing the violence of systematic oppression. Voodoo lives as a contemporary performance that re-defines choreography, dance and how bodies are generally perceived on stage.

Upon arrival, we enter a dark room in groups of 5. As a lady in black escorts us towards our designated seats, we sit facing a screen that lists dates, places and a series of facts linked to those times and locations:

“March 28th 1941,Sussex.

Novelist Virginia Woolf commits suicide.”

While waiting for all the remaining groups to enter the space, eerie music sets the tone for what this contemporary piece has on offer. As the title would suggest, Voodoo forced audiences to partake in a spiritual ritual: a journey where our bodies became “symbols of many long-persecuted people”. Through movement, bodies explore and challenge existing systematic structures that still haunt our society today.

Each movement, each slow-paced twitch was impeccably co-ordinated by the dancers. Showcasing their domination of their own bodies through movement, the technical prowess of these two female performers, wearing white, layered, quilted fabrics was unparalleled. There was no fault, no tension between every single change of position: in essence we were enthralled by the way they moved their bodies. Similarly, the performance space was as transient and seamless as their dancerly movements, where from scene to scene the ladies in black re-assembled the seats to create a completely new stage.

The space we entered became a liminal space where our senses of self were left abandoned. The dancers became spirits of past discrimination and embodied future possibilities for living in an equal society. As an audience, we had no power, we were equals. We sat and observed while the dancers danced with us, making physical contact to several members of the audience. We had a choice to drink between a shot of rum or a shot of apple juice, so we drank. We were told to lay down and close our eyes to start the ritual, so we did. We were told to slowly raise and move our bodies, so we danced. Danced until the space transformed itself into a dance floor.

Voodoo gave its title justice by creating an enthralling ritual where for the entire duration of the piece, I was fully captivated by its performance. This piece is one that should be remembered and has the potential to become an influential piece for future contemporary shows and ways of thinking about dance.

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