Review: Afro Dance Xplosion 2019: A Change is Coming

DANCERS ASSEMBLE: Afro Dance Xplosion

WORDS BY Sheba Montserrat

If you weren’t at Rich Mix on Friday, October 18, for Afro Dance Xplosion 2019: A Change is Coming, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, that you missed out on a great event.

Assembled were London’s movers and shakers (literally). It was an audience filled with dancers and lovers of dance. This was an event that did exactly what was promised in the title. An explosion of movement celebrating African dance (and its hidden presence in various dance styles).

Professionals performed seamlessly beside recreational dancers, traversing the globe to bring Africa’s scattered seed to one venue in order to celebrate itself through dance.

Womanism, was heavily promoted. The Blake Arts dancers, opened proceedings with a contemporary piece infused with African delight entitled WE, which depicted, how women support and nurture each other.

This divine theme of honouring women sojourned through the evening making various appearances such as with The PDC piece, Lapis Lamaza choreographed by Paradigmz, who took dancehall movement vocabulary and used it within and outside of its usual musical setting.

I, You, We ….Rise! From BOP Jazz Theatre Company, celebrated women by way of 10 female dancers illuminating the stage moving to Maya Angelou’s poem ‘I Rise’, set to music.

This dancing diasporic journey took the full house at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix theatre through an ever-changing landscape of styles, genres and themes.

Dressed all in red, Artistry Youth Dance communicated Temptation.

Damarys Farres Cuban School paid homage to the Orisha Yemaya. Adorned in magnificent traditional costumes augmented for the stage. They presented traditional Caribbean dance from the Yoruba tradition of honouring deities through dance.

Impact Youth used dance to provoke thought on how the digital age is changing social relationships.

Alison Ray previewed an extract from her work paying homage to the African and Caribbean servicemen who fought in World Wars I and II.

The magic of The Unknown Soldier was brought forth by way of two dancers who delivered lines and sang, as well as they jived. Two live musicians on violin and musical bow, traversed the stage with their instruments like angelic messengers.

O’Neil Rochester gave a neat and tidy solo, The Journey of My Hip Hop, on how fear can be used to propel us forward. Our final destination was Mami Wata where the artistry of Merlin Nyakam, from the Cameroon, comically and interactively introduced the audience to the process of invoking, embodying and worshipping the sea goddess, irrespective of gender.

Filling the stage with motion and eclectic sounds resonating from his moving body Merlin played to and with the audience.

This night, Afro Dance Xplosion, celebrated nine years of shows and workshops in London, creating a much needed platform for artists to perform and share their love of African dance and its diaspora.

London-based artists and performers, as well as international artists and creatives were invited to participate in the showcase, especially African artists resident in France, where the founder of Afro Dance Xplosion, UK-born, but raised in the US, Carolyn Lilly resided for 10 plus years.

Looking forward to the 10th anniversary of Afro Dance Xplosion, Carolyn said: “ADX 2020 this will be a celebration of dance rooted in African vocabulary as well as African dance, and a journey through memory lane. It will be a showcase that will have something for everyone and will ignite that flame in you to want to dance and celebrate the many dance styles within the African diaspora.”

So, whether you visit dance shows regularly or you never have, this show is for you. It gives the audience a lovely promenade through a wide and varied programme, showcasing the diversity of African dance and its availability in London.

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