Sunday, April 29, 2018

Chicago's Deeply Rooted brings "INDUMBA" to BAM Fisher

Dominique Atwood and Joshua L. Ishmon
of Chicago's Deeply Rooted Dance Theater in INDUMBA,
a work by South African choreographer Fana Tshabalala
(photo: Ken Carl)

How fortunate to be introduced to South African dancemaker Fana Tshabalala through his mighty ensemble piece, INDUMBA ("healing hut"), a 2017 work performed for the first time in New York by Kevin Iega Jeff's Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. The Chicago-based troupe completes its too-short run of this stunning piece this afternoon at BAM Fisher.

The hut in question here--evoking sites of African traditional cleansing and healing--takes shape through a semicircle of stools for dancers on the perimeter of a misty space illuminated by hazy shafts of light. Constructed of beautiful, golden wood, the stools are spare and look less than sturdy. Inside that simple boundary, dancers rise to propel themselves through angular, anguished gyrations and convulsions. These obsessive movements suggest horrors born of social conflict. At the same time, they suggest a ritual of pressure to rid body, mind and soul of these lingering toxicities.

Nicholas Aphane's driving music reaches inside any helpless viewer, evoking the violent, relentless churning of massive machinery. We first hear a vague, intermittent hum like a muted signal or something powering up. We don't anticipate its coming textures and caustic power. External, inhumane forces that have become internalized must, like demons, be exorcised. The "hut" itself--heartless but purposeful--nearly pulverizes damaged beings to render them safer for themselves and for their community.

Some of the drama involves two men--are they antagonists? brothers? actually one person wracked by warring forces within himself?--who clutch, grapple, twist and coil around each other as if they were made of the same skin. One shoves away and isolates himself only to later find himself in the other's grip once again. Likewise, a suffering woman turns from her brutal attacker only to find her "savior" treating her with equal brutality.

Tshabalala's research into the experiences of war-scarred Mozambique, as well as his observations of how apartheid's legacy impacts today's South Africa, informed the creation of Indumba. The work resonates for us, as well, in an America newly haunted by its nightmarish past and roiled by present-day hatreds and violence. If Inbumba is a dance, as described in DRDT's program, offering hope of "resilience and reconciliation," there's clearly nothing easy along that path. And its final image suggests not so much the soothing of terrible pain as its honest, open-throated expression.

Performed by Dominique Atwood, Pierre Clark, Shanna Cruzat, Joshua L. Ishmon, Rebekah Kuczma, Marlayna Locklear, William Robertson and Anthony Williams

Costumes: Alex Gordon
Lighting design: Sarah Lackner

INDUMBA concludes with a 3pm performance today with a post-show discussion moderated by Baraka Sele. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Fisher
321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn

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