Saturday, December 17, 2016

Doubling up: Leslie Cuyjet and Lela Aisha Jones at Gibney

Patricia Peaches Jones
in Plight Release & the Diasporic Body: Jesus & Egun
(photo: Scott Shaw)

Choreographers create worlds for us to visit--visits sometimes good enough to make us to want to linger. But I don't recall ever wanting to just go live there. I mean permanently. Then came Lela Aisha Jones.

Jones--curated by Cynthia Oliver for a DoublePlus evening at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center--created a world so finely-crafted and nourishing that I could imagine not ever leaving. Really, this dance might be all I need for the rest of my life.

Her trio, Plight Release & the Diasporic Body: Jesus & Egun, takes off from the notion that Jesus, a figure dear to many people of African descent, is also way overworked. There are so many other ancestors and spiritual beings who could and should be asked to shoulder some of that burden. This is a concept Jones attributes to Nzinga Metzger, PhD, a scholar of African diasporic religious traditions.

Wow. Rather than rejecting Jesus as the ironically white icon of European colonizers, Jones both embraces and frees him. She doesn't so much lower him from his pedestal in Black church tradition as place him on a spectrum with others. And with her wonderful dancing mates--Zakiya L. Cornish and Patricia Peaches Jones--she demonstrates that Afro-Atlantic religious traditions, including those under the banner of Christianity, can exist to serve the nature and cultures and healing needs of the people who take part in them.

L-r: Patricia Peaches Jones, Zakiya L. Cornish and Lela Aisha Jones
(photo: Scott Shaw)

Everything in Plight Release is made or selected by Jones and her team with utmost care--set and props (which we encounter and interact with first), lighting and shadows, costuming, music and, finally, dancing of ritualistic rigor and beauty. There's nothing done by rote or imitation. Jones finds her own ways to employ symbols, gestures, dance steps. The effect is to be welcomed into a gracious home and sacred space, treated with respect and, at every moment, feel yourself to be in the presence of someone with clarity about what she's doing and why she's doing it. You simply relax.

So, it's decided. I need to look for more from Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround, and you need to go see this piece tonight. Last chance!

Also curated by Oliver for this program: Alike, an intriguing duet by Leslie Cuyjet for herself and Darrin Wright. The big draw here is seeing two of New York's "dancers' dancers" explore magical, even mysterious approaches to space and their more obvious differences of gender, race, timing and expression.

Darren Wright and Leslie Cuyjet in Alike
(photo: Scott Shaw)

This DoublePlus program concludes with tonight's performance at 8pm. For information and tickets, click here.

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1 comment:

Mrs. Jones said...

It is such a pleasure to read an article that creates a picture that I can see and feel. Thank you

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