By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 30 November 2019)
Origins contemporary dance company is the creation of Arnie Umayam and Juliet Duckworth, both of whom are co-artistic directors at The Academy of Dance and Art in Karen. Both are also co-choreographers of Origins’ newest dance production entitled ‘Unflow: Dancing against Plastic Pollution.’
“It was actually Arnie’s idea to create a show based on dancing against plastic pollution,” says Juliet right after their triumphant performance of ‘Unflow’ last Saturday night, 30th November at Alliance Francaise.
“It’s amazing that they had a full house [in the AF garden] in spite of the downpour that didn’t stop once during their performance,” adds Harsita Waters, the cultural director at Alliance Francaise.
Fortunately, when the outdoor stage at Alliance was created, attention was given to creating a canopy sufficient to keep the rain off the stage. However, the evening’s spoken-word poet who is also UNEP’s program management officer in charge of raising awareness about ‘marine litter’, Michael Stanley-Jones, wasn’t so lucky. While he gave an original poem about the ocean and the cruel and poisonous treatment it’s received from human beings, the rains were pounding right at his feet while Origins’ dancers accompanied him and his so-called ‘UNEP speech’.
Judy Church of Seas 4 Life also gave a brief heartfelt talk, challenging her audience to help reverse the polluting trajectory that people have unconsciously caused. She suggested people start with small changes, like stop using single-use plastic containers. But speeches were thankful short.
What the show was ‘long on’ was performing graceful dances, both solos and ensemble pieces, that clearly ‘spoke’ (bodily) about the heavy price the oceans and the living creatures dependent on it are paying for marine pollution. One particularly powerful dance entitled ‘Tangled’ featured a trio, including Arnie, which got entangled in the plastic material frequently used to package bundles of everything from citrus fruits to garlic buds.
Fortunately, the show’s dance finale was upbeat and apparently meant to be an African ritual-like dance entitled ‘The Knife’ which seemed to suggest we can cut through this problem and set the oceans free if humans set their minds to it. That possibility may seem slim as per dances like the ‘Wailing Whale and ‘Delicious Plastic’ which was suffised with irony.
But by Origins choosing to use contemporary dance to raise awareness of the oceans’ plight, one feels we all can do more to try to save our seas.