Shape-Shifting of One’s Understanding: Virago-Man Dem

Written by Kamani J Harris

photo of the dancers in Virago-Man Dem by Cynthia Oliver.
Taken by Kamani Harris

In Cynthia Oliver’s Virago-Man Dem I found myself struggling to put together the changes and metamorphosis within the dance that represents finding oneself, race, and gender identity.

I viewed many representations of shape shifting when the dancers silhouettes were seen on screen, transforming into different positions and elements of the earth. I also witnessed the dancers form an entangled mass and saw the pieces of them attempting to escape and probably stand as their true form. To me the journey of the dance was confusing but the confusion caused by the chaos I was witnessing was probably from the inner elements of one’s being struggling to form their true self. It seemed like a battle between elements of one’s self causing distractions, being the most powerful, and attempting to experiment to shape themselves. Yet, I still struggle to unveil the true message behind the performance.

The dancers silently begin to come out and go toward the stage, covered.
Taken by Kamani Harris

My question is was the mind of the audience able to shape shift and form an understanding of the performance? Did the audience leave with the message that they needed to leave with? I saw many themes that involved blackness, police brutality, traveling the galaxy, being a cyborg, and realizing the pieces that create who you are. Knowing the theme of the dance, enjoying the atmosphere of the venue before the performance, and seeing that the performance was created and performed by people of color, I really wanted to like the performance. As the performance went on, I was confused, my neighbors were asking questions and looking around astonished, and an older lady in front of me fell asleep. I felt uneasy. I knew there was a message to be attained but I was afraid that many of us wouldn’t attain it, especially the ones who needed the message the most. Maybe certain people were meant to understand and others were meant to realize they are in need of more awakening or may never be awakened.

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