Transcendence – a total artistic experience
Kyisha Patterson and Arabesk Dance Collective have been in rehearsal since June for the third staging of Transcendence, which unfolded on Sunday at the Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI, Mona. Dance, music, art drama and poetry were all delightfully packaged and presented, and from the loud and long cheers from the audience, it was evident that the troupe executed well.
As expected, the dancers were graceful in their movement, whether they were Burning with Koffee, smiling with Chronixx, twirling to classical compositions, or making bold, energetic statements with the Nerissa Mourillon-choreographed Do. This contrasted with the rawness of the spoken word, coming from Professor Opal Adisa, whose ‘woman-centric’ poem was packed with the flow. Unplugged, and graphic, she elicited some gasps when she uttered words which spoke of the power of the “blood that drips from her monthly flow.” The uninitiated would have been shocked when the good professor’s poem explained, with grace, that “these are female poems wet with vaginal juice”.
Also inspiring with the spoken word, but of a slightly different type, was custodian of the oral tradition, Amina Blackwood Meeks. Clearly very popular, she was embraced by the audience, who she quickly had under her spell as, expert storyteller that she is, she recounted a time past “when we could fly.” Her narrative transported the theatre back in time to slavery with a story of Sara and her baby, who, with the help of Ole Man Joe and the song, Healing In The Balmyard, remembered how to activate her wings and fly away from the oppression of slavery.
Among the musicians in the spotlight was Rafael Salazar, a native Cuban who was trained at the Conservatorio de Musica in Santiago de Cuba, but who made it clear that Jamaica is now his home. Proficient on an instrument that is not the first or second choice of many, Salazar, played up a storm with his clarinet. He paid tribute to his native land, and, not surprisingly, he selected Chan Chan, the opening track of Buena Vista Social Club’s 1997 eponymous album and the group’s signature song. Salazar, who has performed internationally, is one of the leading tutors in the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica.
In an interview with The Gleaner, chief organiser Kyisha Patterson said that from the feedback, her mission was accomplished. “There was variety within each genre,” she said, pausing to highlight the deaf dancers, who were exceptional. Patterson is particularly happy that the evening of the arts showcased the highest level of artistry among the many talented performers who engaged the audience on Sunday.
“It was the intent to expose all the art forms and the feedback has beeen tremendous. Even the performance themselves get gigs out of this annual show,” she disclosed. “I’m happy for that. It’s all about pushing people forward. In Jamaica, this can be a very segmented space if you are not careful,” she said.