ARIKA14 Episode 6: Make a Way Out of No Way
Highlights include the Queen of Krump Miss Prissy, Kia Labeija and M Lamar's stunning musical evocation of slavery
Arika's dynamic reconstruction of the festival format makes the discussions as important as the artistic presentations: with academics brushing shoulders with the Queen of Krump and opera singer M Lamar, Episode 6 places music and dance in the context of serious academic theory.
However, neither Lamar's Speculum Ora nor Miss Prissy's brief choreographic solo need the explication. While they share little in their performance – Lamar evokes Diamanda Galas while LA’s Prissy is a more authentic version of the hip hop dancer seen in rap videos – they share a precise mastery of their art that becomes an emotional celebration of resistance in the face of oppression.
Lamar's work has been described as touching a notional 'blackness' that can be experienced by the audience regardless of their cultural heritage. Although this is more like critical hyperbole than anything actually felt by anyone ever, Speculum Ora is evocative of the horrors of slavery. Through a fluid musicality that takes the familiar minimalism of Philip Glass and disrupts it through sudden, aggressive syncopations, Lamar traces the torment of the African slaves through to contemporary alienation. His voice ranges from anguished howl to pure gospel and, like his flamboyant fashion which suggests a black metal opera enthusiast, his piano playing incorporates the classical tradition to plunge into the deepest blues of recent history.
Despite its unpromising premise – four people 'performing' a conversation – ‘You've Never Seen Pain Expressed Like This’ demonstrates that Arika's enthusiasm for conversation can be as enthralling as more obvious performance styles. The respect between Miss Prissy and New York Vogue/ flexing dancer Kia Labeija developed into an intimate conversation about their creative processes (both ballet and religious belief were mentioned), while The Legendary Pony Zion Garçon made the house ballroom scene accessible and intriguing through his knowledge and movements.
This conversation set the scene for Miss Prissy's solo: a fierce mixture of balletic technique and her own trademark furious krump, it demonstrates how Prissy is engaging with dance in both street and high-art modes. Suggesting a Maori haka, her solo balances the sensual and the powerful: ending the weekend with a Phil Collins soundtrack was an unexpected surprise, but it spoke of Prissy's refusal to be categorised simply.
Episode 6 certainly had some bumpy moments – the audience seem incapable at points of asking a serious question during discussions, prefering to make a statement in the hope of getting a round of applause, and for all the emotional connection between the diverse artists, they clearly deal in very different ideas about life and art. The question of 'realness,' a theme of the weekend, was understood in such different ways that no philosophical conclusions could be drawn: but that is fine. Arika is about provoking questions and, incidentally, providing some very cool art action.
Arika Episode 6: Make A Way Out of No Way, Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 26–Sun 28 Sep.