Based in Glasgow, and recently celebrating three years since they formed, Project X have a strong aesthetic and highly prolific output with a focus on history, culture and the lived experience of the African and Caribbean Diaspora. These two brand new short films from the multi-disciplinary company, screening as part of Black History Month, take on a female perspective. Both films rejoice in sisterhood and a strong sense of selfhood, both are beautiful celebrations of black women, and feel powerful and moving in distinct ways.
Representations of women in dance films still all too often tend towards a depiction of white women, usually surrounded by white men, so these films feel very important and timely. Project X are instrumental in leading the way forward, ensuring that black narratives are highlighted. A devastating recent government report in the UK from chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested that the arts are mainly populated by “low skilled” workers. Surely though, this is an inaccurate picture, and we know that art is something that provides solace and transcendence, and dancers in particular are highly gifted, vital and necessary.
The Garden Of Eve is a dreamlike meditation on black feminine strength, ritual, power and resilience. It is created by choreographer, dancer, stylist and designer Divine Tasinda in collaboration with film maker Chidera David Chukwujewuka. Everything, from rising from her bed, to walking into the kitchen, to leaving her house and going out into the street, becomes interlaced with languid choreography—graceful extensions, the arch of a back, a sisterly shimmy and twirl, a hand outstretched, rather somnolent and filmed in slo-mo. There’s a euphoric burst in contrast though of an Afrobeat routine performed in a grass costume and face paint—the past colliding with the present—a nod to her ancestry in October 2020.
Tasinda stares at the camera throughout the entire film, creating a feeling of intimacy and unbroken eye contact, a connection between the performer and viewer- the watched and the watcher. She seems to glide like a spirit, feather light in gait and gestures. She represents an omnipotent goddess, all-seeing and all-knowing. Domestic life and the quotidian are eschewed for something more rich and otherworldly, asking questions of identity, as the home becomes a base for creation, symbolic of where things are made, and love and ideas exchanged. “Are we free to fly, and live, are we free to transcend?” she asks.
Afro Vision True Love created by Joy Maria Onotu and film makers Paradax Period is a film of complete, unabashed joy and immediacy. The sense of being human, of always being on the move and of seismic shifts in our lives, is reinforced as Onotu grinds, winds, struts and shakes through different landscapes, including train stations and industrial wastegrounds, to the frenetic, feel-good music made by Yemi Alade, a track called “True Love.” It’s a true statement of intent, all about feeling music flow through your body, getting into your bones, all acting as a conduit for expressing freedom, happiness and feminine sensuality.
Reggaeton and traditional African and Latin choreography is melded skilfully together by Onotu (it makes sense given both share an emphasis on rotation of the hips) and the result is like a slick but visceral pop video which contrasts the moving body with a gritty real environment. Occasionally though, this rough backdrop of gravel, stones and bricks changes: in a couple of scenes there are the simple white backdrops of a vast rehearsal studio space. Onotu responds slinkily to the music and Alade’s lyrics, which say “Forget your sorrows . . . My mama say the feeling must do catch you.” Dance is a healing tool when it gets inside of us, and it makes us rise above our troubles and hurts. These films are perfect reminders of dance to heal and comfort, when our current times seem relentlessly tough and insular.