Narration Is A Creation Of The Self: A Review of Coloured Swan 1: Khoiswan by Isaiah Lopaz

In 'Coloured Swans'; dancer, performer and choreographer Moya Michael questions how layers of imposed identities change how an artist moves, speaks, sings and what specific spaces their bodies visualise or capture. Dance and performance are intertwined with singing, video and speech. In the first part Moya Michael will explore the common visual images that reflect their ancestries, their histories and where they are today as women of colour and specifically as descendants of the Khoi people. ‘Coloured Swans 1: Khoiswan’ by Moya Michael & Tracey Rose premiered at KVS Brussels on 6 november 2018. The performance is part of the SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT programme.  

'Coloured Swan 1: Khoiswan' is an engaging, moving, lyrical narrative which navigates Indigenous identities, postcolonialism, diaspora, and overlapping systems of oppression which reverberate throughout the lives, and across the bodies of Women of Color. Dancer, performer, choreographer Moya Michael in collaboration with visual, performance artist Tracey Rose effortlessly synthesises video, movement, theater, sound, text, and song in a series of solos which examine the complexities of imposed identities. Exhibited in the space of each respective sequence, she examines in equal measure ways in which assigned characteristics influence the movements of artists while also defining the stories these specific bodies are expected to tell. “This is not Swan Lake”, Rose shouts from the audience shrouded in darkness during the first solo. This collaborative quest chronicles the experiences of she who did not fit constructs which were only meant to constrain her, of she who is in full possession of herstory in a world which favors his stories . In Coloured Swan 1: Khoiswan we are enveloped in the tales of she who “created a persona for own interest” and not the annoyance of not being seen as who she is.”

Michael’s voice precedes her first appearance on stage. “You must be a special lady, and a very exciting girl”, she croons. She instructs an uncredited voice to sing along with her to this 1980’s R & B song. Her laughter, and the velvety quality of her voice enchant the audience and when she emerges on stage for the first time her presence is magnetic and compelling. In dialogue with Auntie Mo and the ghost of a friend and neighborhood character, both of whom Michael articulates with wit on stage, the artist seeks news of La Crimosa. La Crimosa as a young girl lived with her father and brother. As a teen La Crimosa is the girl who lights up with the corner boys, protecting them from police patrols through the movements of her feet. Eventually she does what so few are allowed to do, she takes flight, migrating to El Dorado, a promised land where elders and ghosts believe that La Crimosa will become a swan. In this episode Michael evokes the mysteries of migration. These are the gaps that those we leave behind weave together in order to make sense of our flight and our eventual landings. These enigmas are also the triumphs and tragedies that we can never fully prepare ourselves for prior to arriving on foreign soil. In anecdotes that we send home, with money, and presents we decide whether or not to provide clues which accurately describe the heights we can reach in the skies of a promised land. This moment facilitates concern and curiosity for all of the La Crimosa’s we have ever known, foreshadowing an incredible, perilous odyssey.

In the solos succeeding this monologue Michael employs movement and dance to elaborate on the atmospheric pressure which surrounds those who are assigned hybrid identities. Dressed in black against the backdrop of a digital beat, in one solo Michael seems at odds with a mysterious force which requires her to skillfully outwit it. Her twists and turns conjure both anticipation and desperation. Is she moving or being moved? In another solo Michael passes through a curtain, a veil which is brilliantly used throughout the performance to create landscapes, visions, interiors, and moods. The veil becomes a screen from which we can see through. Michael uses her body to create a silhouette which contorts and undulates behind the screen in an alluring manner. The audience can see the artist but she cannot see the audience as she arcs and bends to a click, click, clicking rhythm reminiscent of the cadence of Khoisan conversations. Here Michael addresses directly what she describes earlier in monologue as the “eroticism and exoticism of outside gazes”. Michael’s mastery of her body and craft, and her awareness of her ability to raise questions which create empathy breathing life into stories that we unfortunately do not see championed or explored, is mesmerising and unforgettable.

In examining the limitations which imposed identities place on the work of artists, Coloured Swan 1: Khoiswan also critiques the constructs which influence the lives and movements of People of Color. Michael and her collaborators demonstrate the importance of questioning acceptable narratives, reminding us that narration is a creation of the self and that we must continue to work together to tell our stories.

Text: Isaiah Lopaz
Image: Danny Willems

"Coloured Swans 1: Khoiswan is intelligent, stirring and challenging. But Moya Michael’s natural performance makes it easily accessible, and although it hasn’t been stated enough here, her extraordinary movement is majestic and must be experienced."

- The Critter (South Africa) - 


Moya Michael - 'Coloured Swan 1: Khoiswan' - Thu 21.02 (+ aftertalk with Farbod)
podium / dans

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