Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dancer Kayla Hamilton up close at BAAD!

Dance artist Kayla Hamilton
(photos: Travis Magee)



She moves through the world with a chronic illness that has left her with sight in one eye, loss of peripheral vision, double vision, blurred vision, and difficulty seeing in low light.
 --from publicity for Nearly Sighted by Kayla Hamilton


My experience of Nearly SightedKayla Hamilton's solo performance at BAAD!, actually started before I reached the theater. Coming off the #6 train at Zerega Avenue, I ran into a group of people--including some I knew--heading for the show, all in good spirits. We walked together past the churchyard and, once inside BAAD!, were warmly greeted by more people we knew. While we waited for Hamilton to perform, we watched a wonderful video compilation of interviews and studio scenes with the much-loved choreographers, all Black and women, who contributed work to this evening--Francine E. OttNia LoveChristal BrownCrystal U. Davis and Jaimè Dzandu. Fond co-workers and at least one grateful student of Hamilton spoke up during the post-show discussion. Yes, that kind of evening. More like a family gathering than most anything you'll find at your typical New York dance concert.

Clearly, Nearly Sighted is the place to be. And you're lucky if you can get a ticket. Yes, BAAD! is not the largest venue in town, but even so.

For the suite of dances, which is surprisingly short--maybe 45 minutes at most--Hamilton has woven together material from the choreographers as well as video artists Sammie Amachree and Drake Creative.  Each member of the audience is encouraged to wear an eye patch through most of the performance, giving us a small taste of how Hamilton's vision disability alters her perception of and relationship to her surrounding environment. To work with this, I left my distance glasses off and, given the intimacy of the space, did not need them. I adjusted to the eye patch over time.

If you've ever seen Hamilton dance, you know she brings presence, passion, momentum and juicy fluidity. In her program notes, she calls herself "thick."

"Thick not as in muscular, but thick thick." She adds, "I rarely get to see a thick-bodied disabled person on stage...."

She is a thick spinning top, a thick blossoming flower, a thick burst of fire, a system of thick coursing energy. She is also Black and female all day and embodies Nia Love's words: "It's the way that you stand, the way you sit...the notion that all that you are is all that's right and powerful and good. That's dignity." Her work is a healing gift.

Nearly Sighted was two years in the making. It was fun to talk in our small discussion groups about it and hear Christal Brown tell us none of the choreographers had previous exposure to the finished work. They had no idea how Hamilton would turn their individual material into a this tapestry. The performance, then, was a revelation for everyone.

Nearly Sighted concludes this evening with a performance at 7:30pm. It is sold out, but if you want to try for a last-minute, unclaimed ticket, click here for information.

BAAD!
The Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance
2474 Westchester Avenue (Westchester Square), Bronx

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