Many Lifetimes

Alexandrina Yewande Helmsley
Yewande 103
Dance City, Newcastle

Many Lifetimes Credit: Alexandrina Helmsley
Many Lifetimes score Credit: Alexandrina Helmsley
Many Lifetimes poem Credit: Alexandrina Helmsley

Entering the theatre at Dance City, through its corridor transformed by a shiny grey reflective dance floor, the lights now white instead of the usual orange, I found the space changed as well.

Many Lifetimes is performed in-the-round, with a beautiful unusual hanging set by Ruta Irbite, surrounded by black chairs and floor cushions. The two musicians, Bianca Wilson and Femi Oriogun-Williams, form the top part pf the circle. The set looks like an inverted Arctic or mountain-scape, hanging from a fluorescent frame; an absolutely perfect ‘in-the-round set’ and space.

The dancers, all of whom have diverse heritages and backgrounds, are clad in imaginative differing skirts, tops, dresses made of cotton gauze, referencing the dancers’ rich roots, created by Abiola Onabule. It’s visually very appealing.

Choreographer Alexandrina Yewande Helmsley opens the show, which is a preview, with a poem and musings on creativity, gentleness, giving, grieving, loss and healing. “I am offering a collective moment to witness solos pass between performers.” (The use of mobile phone and mic will probably be avoided at the première.)

The dancers perform solos one by one that use improvisation, but clearly follow a framework or score. Four are gentle, fluid and sometimes sad and slow, the last two contain more anger and intensity. Again the styles vary: Greta Mendez, an icon in the development of black contemporary dance, and Alexandrina herself are particularly enticing as movement grows smilingly out of their bodies. Rudzani Moleya’s solo is filled with lovely twists and rapid step, pauses.

The final long section, when they all came together, lacked some development and the work will surely change and grow as it is performed more.

The music is rich, with a mix of instruments, played live and supported by digital sound and background; some sections feel more purposefulness than others.

The pre-show touch tour with Shivaangee Agrawal is an important and welcome addition.

This is a striking, multi-layered artistic experience, offering a performance with inspiration and threads from many cultures and brings new perspectives and viewpoints—let’s have even more of this kind of work regionally.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

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