To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dancer and choreographer Kenna Cottman shares her perspective on Thursday’s performance of Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s red, black & GREEN: a blues. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
…operate not as an urban planner or as an architect but operate based on my beliefs… belief is BLACK
I have to admit that I don’t think about “the question,” meaning the green question, at all really. I mean, I recycle, I use reusable bags at the store, I turn off the water when I brush my teeth, I even have a composter in my yard. But I never really think about the environment, sustainable living, fresh food and all that stuff in the context of Black people, and in the context of my art. So Marc Bamuthi Joseph really brought a new topic to my eye, to my mind, and that was tight! Because he put it in the context of BLACK PEOPLE (well that’s how I interpreted it). Growing up in Minnesota, I realize that I’m actually pretty close to the earth, growing gardens and community gardens and all that shit. But red, black & GREEN: a blues made me remember that boyfriend I had in college from Mississippi. When he took me home for Christmas I found out that people still live in those shotgun houses, and there is a Black side of town and a white side of town, and I don’t think we ate any veg that wasn’t out of a can or cooked to grey death.
…His skin was the brown of soil you want to sow…
Traci Tolmaire. I loved her voice from the top of the stairs. She was sitting at the top of the tallest part of the environment and she was speaking and singing and then she began moving and I really fell in love then! I loved her movement style – grounded, sexy, powerful, and totally in control. There was no abandon, but I didn’t miss it. Her eyes sparkled with intent. She inhabited these people: the bougie project manager, the busybody community woman, the old ex-wino turned installation artist. I guess I feel sad that I didn’t get to see as much of her, Traci – but she was there and present in her movement. The footworkin’ section, the Lindy hop section, the Dindada section, the anguish of a mother with a lost child – her movement was too tight! That moment when she went to comfort and was thrown off two times before her comfort was accepted – damn!
I WAS SO HAPPY that we got to walk on the stage and be inside the set, but I didn’t really see the beauty in the shotgun houses until I took my seat and viewed it from a distance. It wasn’t a set to me, it was an environment. I think that Theaster Gates intended for us to get all up in that environment, and we were too scared and Minnesota to really go there. That’s why I’m going again on Saturday night and best believe, it’s ON! I saw a kid with a watermelon rind in his hand walking around. Yes. I didn’t believe that we were supposed to stand still and quiet and just watch – I KNEW we were supposed to walk around and see people, greet people, join in the songs and rhythms and just get all over it. I’m proud that I clapped, sang, danced, and stomped, hugged my homies and kept on changing spots. Even though my 13-year old is going to be mortified, when I go again I am going to:
• eat some watermelon and lemon
• sit in the chair and mess with the dominoes
• stand in weird places and look straight up or peek around corners
• try to engage Bamuthi in some capoeira or contact improv type thang
• ask if I can play the cajón and then play it if MC Soulati says yes
• this time I WILL BE THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE THE ENVIRONMENT (homegirl was trying to be the last one so I let her have it)
…the church that you smell in his voice is grief…
Theaster Gates‘ voice had so many tears inside it. He took me straight to church and to the jook joint after. He’s the type of performer who manages to make eye contact with me several times when he’s performing, and I feel like he’s really seeing me, talking to me, singing to me. What a beautiful lament.
Beats and rhythms are the way I process life, making MC Soulati‘s contributions to the piece super important to me. He manifested this idea that I have that everything has an accompanying rhythm. Bamming bones, fingers on the light pole, the subversion of the cajón that looks like an innocent box – those things represent the rhythm that “they” tried to take away from us, proving it’s power! Stomps, claps and snaps — the church clap – praise break — djembe solo, tama waye! Soulati was the heartbeat of the piece, essential. Like how if you watch Boyz In The Hood with good sound, you can hear the bass of a booming system somewhere in every scene, sometimes buried way underneath but still essential, still kickin’. Stay.
…if you’re gonna be in this garden you can’t just be pretty; you have to put out…
Bamuthi moves like a man, not a dancer, and that’s a good thing to me. Gestures have so much meaning. He’s fusing all of our traditions – West African, Haitian, Black American. There’s a solidness to his footfalls, not stomping or heavy, but dependable. This is what we mean by grounded. There’s a fluidity of torso, not that he’s tworking or popping, but I feel the oceans and rivers in there. These things are also powerful and dependable. Everything is really clear and clean, and though I see the work required, he doesn’t look like its that taxing. Especially when he speaks and moves or busts a major phrase and then starts talking immediately after. Breath control, breath control, breath control styleeeee! My favorite favorite, after the capoeira-like way that he cut through the crowd when we were all on stage, was when he was at the window and I could only see his upper body. Like looking at a pic that stops at the waist, you know the legs are still there even though you can’t see them. He did one particular twist of his hips, just beneath the threshold of the windowsill. Aw man, that was so tight!
…she spits out a seed, looks at me, and asks “the question”
…Panther Blue Seeds, can’t just be pretty, strange fruit,Dindada, church that you smell, spits out a seed, Mekhi, Tupac, china straight, stay. Black panthers, still here, dangling earpiece, “cray,” shaking left hand extended, hella, belief is BLACK, my skin is brown, nobody knows, won’t let me breathe, yeaaaah, well…