I got an invitation to a private viewing of a dance performance by my friend Oyebisi Tosin of Tantoloun productions, to experience and photograph their new piece tilted iStand. The work explores the issue of the survival of the woman in a man dominated world with an underlying theme of ‘I am because we are, we are because I am’.
Dance I have always believed are energised emotions in motion. The mechanical interpretations of feelings, states, truths, and maybe beliefs. I remember a Sufi story. A great master was coming to town. Many followers, teachers, students, and people of the town desirous of knowledge had gathered with endless questions. The hall was overflowing with people. As soon as the master came in, he got into a deep dance moving graciously around the room. The people were totally entranced, the hall was still and in total silence, only the master was the moving body, it seemed he moved across their lives and times with his consciousness, and they had no desire except to see as he saw. When he was done, he looked at the people and said, “Now all your questions are answered”. Everyone departed, renewed and contented.
The dance performance was of a three man cast, Esther Essien; Abiodun Bakare Ismail; and Oyebisi Tosin. The aesthetics of the set design was interesting, the floor was made up of water sachets; there were two chairs and a box. The back ground was made of a large backdrop. I did not understand the music, felt like a primal sound. In this universe, Esther and Tosin struggled and spoke with their bodies and movements. There was so much power struggle, acquisition and submission of power, assertion of dominance, confusion, abandon, tolerance, embrace, love and ultimately an attempt at unity. I suffered and rejoiced with them, everything was real until Esther started speaking in Yoruba when they walked off set. I was given an intellectual briefing at the beginning of the dance, after watching and photographing, I knew their central message was well relayed, with the intense dance moves, jumping and self-slams, different levels of emotions were exuded and transmitted through the bodies. I think for every person that will see the piece, they are going to have personal things to take away. Many things were communicated to me at a level I can’t consciously remember but buried somewhere in the mind. Some truths jumped the bridge of sight and rationality.
A performance must arrest the audience and take them wherever intended, up to the heavens, down to the hades. To feel the pain of the pregnant woman giving life, the suffering of the oppressed, the man whose pride is lost, the joy of the woman seeing her child for the first time, the taste of liberty on the tongue of the oppressed, the man who has his honour restored. And as the audience travels with you, personal unrelated life questions are answered. Through the performance about the kid who travelled downstream to find his shoe, you will know the right words to tell your lover when next you see her.
Einstein once called dancers the athletes of God; I think he was right, these bodies must be channels of some kind of stuff from some other side. I look forward to the performance at Mbari Mbayo Arts Centre in Bariga, Lagos on the 3rd of March. Maybe this time I won’t photograph, maybe I will experience without losing time to frame a picture, maybe I will learn more. But I think Tosin will not allow me.