Pitch events from Jane Sekonya-John, Avant Garde Dance, Hetain Patel and ViD (Verse in Dialog) with Zena Edwards
On Thursday morning in the Conference Hall of Manchester Town Hall four companies pitched short ten-minute extracts from their work to bookers, fellow artists, and delegates.
First up was Jane Sekonya-John and the creative team behind Keuse (Choice). The project involves two dancers, Jane Sekonya-John herself and Mamela Nyamza, working with spoken word artist OneNess Sankara. Drawing on the lives of three women from both South Africa and Britain the piece explores the inter-generational stories of these women. Fast-moving, with everything from pat-a-cake to ballet, from hip-hop to monologue, what the show lacked at this early stage in coherence it made up for in energy. The company are off to the Albany Empire in Deptford to further develop the piece and it will be interesting to see how the various elements will all hang together in the final production.
Dance – it’s not exactly subversive, is it? All those young people in pumps and leotards prancing about; showgirls kicking their legs high in the air; Morris Dancers – surely dance is about as revolutionary as flower-arranging? But dance has always challenged authority. From the Can-Can to the Charleston – dances that were both banned in their day – to jive, rock and roll, and the Frug, right up to illegal raves and laws against‘ repetitive beats’ dance celebrates freedom and sexuality in ways the State is quick to censure.
In the city of the Hacienda Avant Garde Dance presented a brilliant pitch for their show Ilegal Dance. Making full use of the minstrel gallery, the small stage, and the aisles between the audience’s chairs the company outlined a future in which Government Proclamation bans all forms of dance and a resistance movement comes into being. ‘Will you rebel or conform?’ they cry. Dancing in the street was never more funky, or more relevant. A show to watch.
Hetain Patel’s 'Be Like Water' takes a humorous approach to culture and belonging. Sitting on a stage dressed in pale brown suit with Nehru collar Patel addresses the audience in Mandarin while Shelly Maxwell translates. Drawing on Bruce Lee’s advice to ‘Be Like Water’ Patel develops the idea of identity as fluid, using devices such as time-lapse photography to chart the growth of his facial hair, Kung Fu movies as a way to create new identities, and language games to both include and exclude audiences. This piece drew lots of laughter and Patel and Maxwell make a very good, very postmodern double act.
Zena Edwards’ was on next, her haunting voice stilling the room as her clear voice sang about mothers and heartbreak. Edwards can do it all – she can write, act, sing and her pitch showed off all her talents. Edwards’ piece is about her mother and her mother’s reunion with her own lost mother. Going from Cockney to Caribbean she says, ‘I make sense of the world with a British voice and a brown skin.’ Edwards’ is a true star.
The diverse nature of these pitches – in every sense of the word – summed up what deciBel is all about. I get the feeling Manchester Town Hall is still echoing with their rhythms.