Tribe// Still I Rise: tender, sensuous and exquisite. A Response by Anna Mortimer

Tribe// Still I Rise
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise
Maya Angelou

Chatting with my friend as we drove the tranquil back route to Ipswich we bemoaned the continuing sexism and covert misogyny that we still encounter even today. Yes of course we have made strides since the 1970’s when Maya Angelou wrote her poetry but we continue to need to be alert to the insidious nature of repression and oppression.

Tribe// Still I Rise was inspired by Angelou’s eponymous poem yet this interpretation in dance is far from a mere illustration. The five female dancers created a charged atmosphere on stage which barely faltered for the hour-long performance. The narrative of dominance and submission, oppression and resistance, power and weakness became one that involved and implicated the audience as the dancers held us in their gaze. ‘This could be you’ or ‘Is this you?’ felt like a chilling message, almost an indictment.

Strong gestural hand and arm movements became an expressive language of both suffering and resistance. Often contained in the upper body the sense of constraint and entrapment; taut and controlled, was a powerful motif for the dancers to pit their wits against. Whilst the five dancers working together created some superb moments of tension, it was the two longer duets that heightened the emotional content of the work. Laced with the dark undertone which characterised the whole piece these duets were tender, sensuous and exquisite.

Tribe// Still I Rise
Still I Rise

The dancers focused on each other so intensely that the connection between them was almost audible, as if they were in deep conversation. I caught myself straining my ears to catch their whispers, to listen in on their secrets, to share their affinity. They intuited each other’s moves; fall, catch, throw; gather, guide, hold; drop, support, suspend; watch and listen; watch and hear creating a mesmerising and beautiful portrait of female intuition and kinship. These moments held enormous gravitas and lingered long after the evening had finished.

Energetic to the last, the group worked as one in a series of interlinking twists and squirms, lifts and throws, supports and jumps to bring the work to a dramatic close. They keep jumping on the spot as the lights go down and we pick up their hope that we too will respond to their clarion call and be empowered to rise.

Reviewed on 1st March 1st at Dance East Ipswich by Anna Mortimer