Arika Episode 9: Other Worlds Already Exist
- Claire Sawers
- 21 November 2017
Brooklyn dancer Storyboard P, 'the Basquiat of street dance', performs with Project X as part of Arika's Episode 9
Watching Instagram videos of Storyboard P dancing at Tramway, it looks like they're buffering, or sped up with a time-lapse app then recorded in slow motion. Casually ripping holes in the fabric of space and time is what this extra-special New York dancer has been doing for years, and it's why he's starred in short films for Flying Lotus, done adverts for Timberland and freestyled in art galleries with Jay-Z.
Storyboard – real name Saalim Muslim – has been developing his own graceful, gravity-ignoring, liquid-limbed style since childhood when he danced at family parties and took ballet classes for a month before crafting his own 'mutation' style on the streets. Mutation is Muslim's superhuman mix of jerky krumping, weightless vogueing, tortured body language and video-game glitches, demonstrated in mind-bending solo and group performances.
Project X, a Glasgow group celebrating dance within the African Diaspora in Scotland, teamed up with Storyboard for workshops during his Scottish visit and improvised together on the Saturday night of Episode 9, a weekend festival of talks and performances organised by community arts organisation, Arika. The theme for Arika's latest installment, Other Worlds Already Exist, was science fiction, exploring joyful, creative ways to escape the oppressive 'forces of patriarchal and heteronormative, ableist and racist society'.
The four-day event skilfully tangled together space travel-writing, sex-work discussions, arthouse films, experimental music, and dance. Elsewhere in the programme, there were engrossing interviews with 75-year-old radical queer writer Samuel Delany, a cling-film wrapped mutant crossbreed of spoken word and dubby performance art for the dancefloor from female duo LAPS (Ladies As Pimps), an androgynous workout of lip-sync, folklore and an onstage cold shower from otherworldly dance artist Sgàire Wood, and a visceral, bass-heavy set of poetry, hip hop and Alice Coltrane samples from Philadelphia musician and activist Moor Mother (real name Camae Ayewa).
Saturday night hit a high with an audience Q&A slotted in around Storyboard's dancing, which he explained is his way of speaking without words, using non-verbal communication to transform emotions, talk with other dancers and play in his imagination. It's dazzling, inventive, amazing stuff: he clones a stop-motion skeleton from one of his favourite films, Ray Harryhausen's Jason of the Argonauts, mimes a gunshot suicide, then battles back and forth with the BSL interpreter at the side of the stage, before wrapping and slithering around the excellent Project X dancers (Claricia Kruithof, Mele Broomes and William Freeman).
Giving lead weight to his rubber boned, featherlight moves, he takes the mic to share that a friend back home had died the previous day. It's a raw moment that bonds him fast to the crowd and lets him channel real-time grief and frustration into his hyper-elegant, floating, non-choreographed routine. Synchronising with the weekend's theme of other worlds, his sad announcement offers a natural, unscripted way of displaying how he uses dance to transcend harsh realities of this world into imaginary, sublime dimensions.
Reviewed at Tramway, Glasgow.