anonymous bodies Performance Inspires Audience Dialogue

November 16, 2012

anonymous bodies, the performance group that appeared at Marian Anderson Music Center on Thursday, Nov. 15, draws upon the traditions of visual art, post-modern dance, site-specific study, conceptual and performance art, audience participation and public spectacle. Kate Watson-Wallace and Jaamil Kosoto are the principal performers. The Cheyney University audience did not know what to expect from the pair of dynamic presenters, but most had a powerful, thought-provoking, and deeply emotional experience.

The program opened with the piece anonymous bodies, a mash up of theories of identity and visual and performance aesthetics for a genre-defying face-off between the pair. The accompanying music mix combined The Knife, Roberta Flack, Nas Deerhunter, Sleigh Bells, Jay Z and Kanye for a push-pull effect, as the artists symbolically wrapped themselves in flags to become anonymous - to the world and to each other. 

In other.explicit.body, Kosoto appeared in a white sweat suit laced with "conscious" graffiti covering his body. He describes the piece as "a theatrical investigation bridging movement with visual art to force a dialogue between the complexities of critical race issues, political satire and stereotypical images of the Black Male Body." Using music by Miriam Makeba and an NPR interview with Toure, and a live video feed of front and back images of Kosoto, an uncertain sense of balance emphasized his point about perceptions. Guitarist Brandon Shockley provided musical accompaniment.

Following intermission, the audience focused on the spotlight-lit performer in the middle of the auditorium as Songs to Make Your White Girl Cry (REDUX) began. According to the program, the powerful and controversial piece "exposes a confessional identity-mashup where visual and performance aesthetics collide in a face-off of self-revelation, ecstatic theatricality, and discomfort." The piece referenced issues related to racial insensitivity,mysogyny, and the patriarchal construct of masculinity in a very provocative manner. Most audience members wiggled in their seats more than once as the artist became increasingly physical and dramatic on stage.

The show closed on a high note with a performance of Flash Mob accompanied by "Walking on a Dream" by Empire of the Sum. Choreographed by Kate Watson-Wallace and performed by Kosoko and CU dance students Sebrena Bouknight, Craig-Brown-Dickens, Douglas Carson, Nitia Dixon, Cherene Hospedales, Tanesha Jackson, Janina Jones, Jasmine Pitt, Karletta Sims, Christina Tieh, and Nicole Tyndle, the team showed their stuff in a happy romp onstage with some outstanding moves. 

At the invitation of Dr. Sebronette Abrom-Barnes, who organized the Arts and Lectures Series, a number of students remained for a dialogue with the artists. She thanked the performers and the audience, "Thank you for attending. We know some people were not comfortable with the show.The program is here to shake you. The University is a place where you learn. The reason we have the Arts and Lectures Series is to expose you to all kinds of things."

The ensuing dialogue between the students and Watson-Wallace and Kosoko showed that the mission was accomplished. Kosoko opened, "As artists, we get caught between aesthetic versus content. What I want to do is provide opportunities for discussion. We cover issues including mysogeny, racism, and sexism. These are universal, not just female, issues. I am very interested in creating a platform for critical questions and thinking. When people ask 'what is the message?' it's up to you." 

When students said that they were offended by some of what they saw, Kosoko said, "As a choreographer I put together some really messy things. My work is very provocative. The world is changing and we live in a world that is very complex. We feel that dance is about 50 years behind society, and we are trying to subvert that."


The program was presented as part of the 2012-2013 Arts and Lectures Series.