Home ArtsDance Review: In ‘Nehanda,’ the Band Played On

Review: In ‘Nehanda,’ the Band Played On

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Montclair, NJ — The Queen has died. Long live the king.

The word formula of dynastic continuity, which is often said these days, has come out of the mouths of choreographers and performers. Nora Chipoumire On Friday, however, it came out ironic and thorns.

Chipoumia evoked the phrase on the new album. “Nehanda” As part of the Peak Performance series, it had its world premiere this weekend at the Alexander Kasser Theater.

The title evokes a different continuity, naming the ancestral spirits of the Shona people who are said to possess and guide various women throughout history. Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana (1840-1898), He led a late 19th-century rebellion against the British South African Company’s occupation of the land now known as Zimbabwe.

Chipaumia was born and raised in the land. And it wasn’t too hot when she mentioned the coronation of Charles III and said, “May he continue his reign long.” “Nehanda” is definitely anti-colonial.

It’s not very clear what you want to convey to others. The whole job is about 6 hours. At Peak Performances, his two hours were divided into three chapters, with one chapter performed each day through Sunday. I only attended the first chapter “Natives | Natives”. Empire | Prison”, and Chipaumire calls “Nehanda” a “legal opera” that incorporates song and dance, but this introductory section felt more like a concert, with more atmosphere than lighting.

The stage had been remodeled into something like a shebeen. It was a pub, an African juke joint, with plastic boxes for seating and lanterns for lighting.A British flag suspended from rigging and a hand-painted banner recreating the Bill of Rights Universal Declaration of Human RightsAudiences had the choice of sitting on stage or in theater seats. In particular, the view of the stage from the house was flat and blocked most of the time, so it’s better to sit in a crate near the band.

This was an eight-piece ensemble that produced rolling rivers of groove. Mbira, or thumb piano, provided the main flow joined by percussion and guitar and topped with vocals in many non-English languages. Mackintosh Jelafni great clarion call Fatima Katgi. The music blended smoothly into the next song, so just listening to the music felt comfortable enough.

But this wasn’t just any concert. Male dancers held crate sheets and periodically moved through the space in floating slow motion, brushing close to the audience. And Chipoumia finally spoke, alluding to the history of her hometown and the “good people who rejected it.”

Without words, performance artist Peter Van Heelden, a large white man wearing nothing but leopard-print underwear, appears, wearing white make-up, a white wig and a hoop dress with no fabric, in a farce of Queen Victoria. was embodied. name of the British South Africa Company that carried out the colonization). Van Heerden spread his arms out to receive praise and held out his hand for a kiss. He pumped out imperial power with muscle poses and pelvic thrusts, laughing maniacally, crying, and chirping “Jerusalem” and “God save the Queen.”

For a while there seemed to be a conflict between this beleaguered Queen and the ever-formidable Chippoumia – some drama, some story. Instead, the band continued playing. Whatever “Nehanda” is working on, it’s slowly working on it.

After a while, the Chipoumia and the dancers huddled in a wooden pen or cell and began a compressed power song and stomping sequence. As the sequence repeated, one performer after another headed for the exit, while the others remained as if still unaware that the cell door was open. After all the performers were gone, we in the audience could still hear the music playing somewhere beyond the exit.

Was it the sound of a revolution brewing? The first part of “Nehanda” did not reveal the answer.


Plays Friday at the Alexander Casser Theater in Montclair, New Jersey

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