Written by Sihan Wang
On the night of November 11, I went to the Colwell Playhouse at Karrnert center viewed Virago Man-Dem performance. I noticed that the performance was started before everyone was seated and lights out, as the audiences went into the theater, there is a person wearing white shirt standing at the corner right under stage facing the stage, and the light was on him since the beginning, I went into the theater early so I notice four performers started to stand on their position one by one before the lights turned off, faced to different direction.
This dance performance is very different from any other performances that I’ve seen this semester, because there is a huge projection screen on the stage, during the performance, there is so much information that conveyed by that big screen, color and picture on that screen are constantly changing. With the changing screen, the movements of dancers are also changing and coordinated with the background screen perfectly, which address the theme of different time during the performance easily, gender issue, discrimination, poverty and so on.
At the beginning of the performance, the screen was blue, and four dancers moved slowly, with the background music like some kind of noise that made by an insect. Four dancers slowly moved toward the center of upstage in accumulation, with the background screen showing different animated faces of black people, since the choreographer Cynthia Oliver did not address any meanings behind each scene on the screen in the program note, my own interpretation tells me that those animated faces were telling history of their race, it combined with the movement of dancers in harmony, each dancer was on their own sequence in that phase, with the pictures on the screen, it tells stories of different dancers, some of them were waving their arms and body then laid on the ground showing despair, some of them moved in a manly way and some of them moved like women, with the screen it tells me that black people had a complicated culture and long history with suffering and discrimination from other people toward their race, sexual orientation, and appearance. As I continued to watch, more elements and evidence emerged that proves it, especially at the end of the performance, everyone dancer changed their clothes to what we would consider which to be women clothes, the notion of one person doesn’t have to necessarily be a biological man to do or want or be whatever he or she wanted was largely emphasized. After the introduction part, the screen slowly changes to blue, and four dancers started to have some arrangement on their position and movement, first just simply walk repetitively, three dancers forms in one group, then the dancer outside switch with one of the dancers in the group, it tells that they are from the same culture and each one have had shared the same or similar experiences with one another.
Overall, the performance is a creative, culturally representative, I can see a lot of elements that tell stories, stories about the race, and stories about some current world issues. As Cynthia Oliver addressed in her program note, this work for her is an act of love, the love of her people, the love of the world, the love of peace that helped her create such a wonderful performance.