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Nora Chipaumire and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “visible” is Too Much to See Just Once (VIDEO)
This weekend Harlem Stage presented the world premiere of visible, the result of a two-year collaborative process between choreographers Nora Chipaumire and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The theatrical dance performance featured an international cast; Souleymane Badolo (Burkina Faso); Catherine “Ca.Dé” Dénécy (Guadeloupe); Marguerite Hemmings (Jamaica); Judith Jacobs (Holland); John O. Perpener II (U.S.); and Kota Yamazaki (Japan). The choreographers drew inspiration from the personal narratives of the cast members and their own personal stories of migration (Chimpaumire is from Zimbabwe and Zollar’s family migrated to Kansas City, MO during the Great Migration).
Chipaumire and Zollar transformed The Gatehouse performance space at Harlem Stage into another world, and much like in the real world your experience of it is framed by your perspective. The performance you see depends on your position around the three sided runway stage. It is impossible to even begin to unpack all of the imagery and information in visible, there is so much happening simultaneously that it is impossible to even scratch the surface after just one viewing. From my seat on the right side of the stage, I was privy to a subtle realization by Jacobs that she was not being excluded from the discussion of “we” amongst the others, made especially poignant as she was the only European immigrant and the only white dancer in the piece. I’m sure those on the other side of the stage could not hear her muttering “we, but who’s we?” Too bad I wasn’t closer to percussionists Bashir Shakur and David L. Alston as they had a choreographed bucket drumming segment that I wished to see clearer, but their rhythms certainly touched me even from the opposite corner of the stage.
One visceral moment was when Yamazaki emerged with an armful of white shoes and placed them across the floor. Amongst dozens of white shoes of various sizes were a single pair of red pumps, scattered separately. The other dancers seemed unaware of the shoes and continued to pace, roll and writhe over them. After the show many spectators wondered about the significance of the shoes, each person pulled a different meaning from it. Perhaps it was a memorial for those who have immigrated and migrated in search of a better life, but is the one red pair symbolic of those who have succeeded or those who have failed? Maybe the answer depends on your perspective.
Visit www.urbanbushwomen.org/developing_works.php for images and blogs from the creative residencies. See video from the dress rehearsal below.