Reflecting on What The Body Knows

You could learn to fly if it meant you would live another day.
— Maame, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

More Information about Barak Ade Soleil

The space was hollow and small. glass doors on one end, wooden doors on the other. behind our seats, a row of windows overlooked large spotlights, the source of the other worldly light.  We were standing on the stage but we didn't know then we where a part of the performance. We would be moved in every sense of the word. On paper the performance was about exploring the interaction of race and disability thru dance. I am not sure that description does the depth of the work justice. I saw it as an essay in three parts.  

Part I :

He pushed thru the curtains without announcement. He didn't to ask for silence,  his silence demanded it. From the beginning his movements demanded so much from the audience. They reminded me of the yoga poses I hate to press myself into. Uncomfortable and peculiar but opening spaces within you that would otherwise go unexplored. The sounds of discomfort was part of the dance. The sound forced the discomfort back into your own body. He grunted and moaned, resurrecting the familiar ache of depression.

The Body Knows the Mind is in Control.

We confronted the sound of discomfort but also defiance. The frantic nature of determination when your mind and body are both enemy and ally.

ade Soleil pushed us to see him beyond the discomfort of movement, the story did not begin or end there. We watched him dripping in gold, slow winding in the familiar ecstasy of freedom. Bare chested and looking you straight in your soul, he dared you to look away. He forced each of us to confront what ever it was you felt watching him come thru like the dance hall queen completely owning his body and his sensuality. Edgeless and feeling triumphant, I couldn't have been prepared for the final chapter of part one.

I still don't know exactly what to make of the closing. It didn't understand why. What happened. I wish I could say it didn't invoke another familiar feeling. If you have ever stripped yourself bare you may understand it too. Some people see you as a full person others use it to dehumanize you. I felt like I was looking at that dehumanization, he pressed it into us. He made us think he needed us to hand feed him, made us feel sorry for him, for ourselves. I silently begged not to be chosen, felt frustrated by the variety of responses of those who were. No one spoke but everyone communicated. Shifting, avoiding eye contact, delighting in the feeding, contorted faces, "reading" the program, every movement communicated something. All different all telling.  He was watching us, we were performing too. He danced a complex set of emotions, unraveled a complex humanity and focused us to reconsider ourselves and our way of relating, rationalizing, hiding.

Part II

Jerron began his performance from the opposite side. The glass doors. Standing tall and straight. He marched in with wide steps hitting the floor hard. Each boom shacking the foundation of our expectations. My son whispered, "he doesn't have a disability."  I contemplated what my silence on disabilities had thought my child as I watched Jerron work to get his hand in his pocket, considered the beauty in the movement.  It wasn't swift or effortless and that's what made it such a beautiful part of the performance. Disability usually comes up on an as needed bases, to explain why accommodations are needed or to prevent my child from saying anything insensitive or looking too hard.

The Body Knows that if Used Carefully it Can Control the Mind of Another.

Jerron's performance took up a tremendous amount of space. His movements where large and his interactions with the audience were genial, in sharp contrast ade Soleil's solo performance. The privilege of taking up space, to move around as much as you like meant he stood directly in front of me but did not see me. He was in a world all his own. A world in plain sight I had never taken the time notice but have no access too. My approach was wrong, I had taught my child to see but ignore a type of difference.

Part III

The spotlights cast multiple shadows of varying density for each dancer. Amplifying there movements. What does movement cost us? Watching both men drip sweat, pushing , pulling, and twisting. The two men shared a stage. There movements were about relationship. Each performer relying on the other for support. Engaging the floor and wall as part of the dance. Their proximity to each other's bodies struck me a particularly bold, two black men are rarely seen in this way. They are not allowed to be so free they love their mirror image. They are not allowed to hold their sons so tight for so long. We allow them sexuality but never intimacy.

Even in the mist of such heavy emotion finding peace in the base and the bounce. I loved the abrupt change to club music, watching both men bouncing to the base. Feeding off each others energy reminding me to get out my feelings and enjoy the moment. I needed those breaks. Music that is all too often hyper masculine and problematic but so #unapologeticallyblack it still creates a common ground.

The Body Knows the Power of the Mind is Not Absolute.

There was much more to the performance than I am able to capture. As a parent I can't help but wonder what was going thru my sons mind and he watched with furrowed brows. I do know that conversation the dance inspired between us was much needed and one of the longest we have had in a while. I decided I wouldn't attempt to explain the dance. Really how could I pretend to know what the artist was thinking. What emotions he wanted the call forward? Maybe my explanation would spoil his insight. Instead we talked about the power of the mind, the need to consider the complexity of each persons identity and the need to be honest with yourself about your own complexity.


With Jerron

With Jerron