Jamila Johnson-Small - Basic Tension [Live]


This new work by dancer and choreographer Jamila Johnson-Small — aka Last Yearz Interesting Negro — is all about the ways in which we inhabit our own physicality and occupy the “in-between spaces” of memory and the syncopation between the body and music.

Basic Tension is inspired by the desire to “make meditation tapes to calm my rampant alienation and to slow my racing thoughts,” a near-impossible luxury when you “embody countless contradictions and traumas and language can’t stretch to hold you.”

This visceral rupture of form and physicality takes place in a darkened theatre, strewn with granite boulder-like formations. We’re encouraged to sit within the performance space and don shiny black vinyl capes, transforming us into rock formations too. We’re all equal as objects here — physical identity is left at the door.

Among the audience, Johnson-Small and a pregnant Stephanie McMann glide and move to the music. The bass-driven surround sound provides consistent textural support to movement, rather than acting as its instigator.

That comes instead from recorded dialogue which instructs both dancers to “perform classical ballet, step twice, etc.” The lag between instruction and movement is comic yet unnerving, as if we’re witnessing the loss of agency in this implicit critique of modern dance.

Read the rest of the review in The Morning Star.

[This piece was published on 24/08/17]