V/DA's Sonic Séance 'emerges as an expression of anger against the dominance of colonialist narratives'
- Deborah Chu
- 17 April 2019
credit: Matthew Arthur Williams
The team behind the blossoming dance and arts collective prepare to get angry with their first shared project
When curator and costume designer Sabrina Henry moved up to Scotland from London last January, her first thoughts were of finding her people: 'Where are the people of colour making things in Glasgow?' she recalls thinking. 'How do I start making things according to dialogues I want to create?'
She soon connected with performer and choreographer Mele Broomes through Project X, a collective championing performance works within the Scottish Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Broomes – whose performance piece VOID won the Total Theatre Award at last year's Fringe – invited her round for a cup of tea, 'which is unusual for people that don't know each other down south, and I thought that was really nice,' laughs Henry.
At the time, Broomes was artistic director of Various Dance Artists (V/DA), which began as a vehicle to stage her own work. Recently she's expanded this enterprise into a creative collective that includes Henry plus performer, choreographer and producer Claricia Parinussa. The three had crossed paths previously, and despite different skillsets, realised they shared a strong interest in platforming work that explores the experiences of women of colour.
Their first shared project, Sonic Séance, has been a deeply fruitful experience. Though still a work-in-progress, their early performances for artist-led organisation The Work Room came across 'like a firebomb on stage,' describes Parinussa. A fusion of sound, poetry and dance, Sonic Séance emerges as an expression of anger against the dominance of colonialist narratives.
'I would say that anger is only negative when it's expressed in a way that is not productive, or not useful,' says Parinussa. 'It can be a very empowering thing, but it's necessary to channel that in a way that allows audiences to understand more about that anger. Because in a lot of situations … '
' … you're painted as a problem maker,' Broomes chimes in, 'or you're just creating chaos.'
Such dialogue is central to the way these three work together, and has fostered a sense of trust in each other. 'With Sonic Séance, I know that Claricia has a skillset in producing, and I feel comfortable that she can understand where I'm coming from,' says Broomes. 'From that, we can create new work that is in keeping with the things we want to do, but also that can be steered from any person.'
It's clear, however, that their investment is as much in each other as it is in producing work. 'Not everything we talk about has to be related to something we're producing at the end,' says Henry. 'It can be something that exists in a lot of forms, or just an idea.'
'What feels important is our growth together,' Parinussa says. 'It doesn't have to go in a linear way, but somehow that all does feed into that bigger thing which will come out in the work.'
When asked about their dreams for V/DA, the three respond with peals of laughter. 'How much time have you got?' says Broomes. There's too many to count, but the common thread is a shared desire for growth, always with an eye on how this affects the community at large. Henry brings up their wish to facilitate meaningful dialogue about the issues their work touches upon, 'to have a space of learning, which can act as a mirror of what's happening in our production work'.
'There is a sense of pressure on woman of colour to put strong work on, because you don't get anywhere without reaching as high as you possibly can,' says Broomes. 'I also think it's important for young people to see that you can say what you want to say. To be seen in a position where this is our idea, this is what we want it to be, and we can make it happen.'
Sonic Séance is part of Take Me Somewhere, Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 16, Sat 18 May. Get tickets here. Find V/DA on Instagram.
Take Me Somewhere
The spirit of The Arches lives on in this festival of contemporary international performance.