As part of our first Moves411 dance reviews in collaboration with Beatfreeks, Paige Jackson reviewed Tavaziva’s Africarmen on Thursday 9 March, 8pm.

Love … corruption … brutality, this is Africarmen! Tonight’s performance was choreographed by Zimbabwean born dancer and composer Bawren Tavaziva. The company is comprised of 6 phenomenal dancers: Anna Watkins, Carmine de Amicis, Ellen Yilma, Jordan Bridge, Lisa Rowley and Theo Samsworth; all execute an effortless yet captivating blend of contemporary and a collection of African dance styles. 

Africarmen is Tavaziva’s latest explosive and captivating piece – a new spin on the French opera and heavily inspired by Mats Ek version – Bawren creatively parallels and layers themes in the original narrative with political unrest, strained communities and duplicitous relations. Set in Equatorial Guinea, known for its lucrative oil resources and booming economy, Bawren and the company deliver a raw and honest performance depicting the strength resilience and ambition which emanates from the exploited poorer citizens.

A massive shout out to the dancers; the level of athleticism and precision to detail is mind blowing! To witness the beautiful eclectic blend of satisfyingly grounded impact lunges and floorwork; expansive, elongated linearity of extension in the limbs juxtaposed with the mesmerizing undulations of the hips and playful gestures of the hands (reflective of some of the more social movement aesthetics we see across the continent) was jaw dropping. I constantly found my eyes darting across the stage in effort to capture every single moment. In combination with the simple yet effective set design of an oil rig tower – lit from behind to project geometric shadows on the floor – bold and realistic costumes, and the carefully scored soundtrack by Fayyaz Virji, the narrative could be delivered with great clarity. I personally enjoyed and appreciated the dancers’ strong intent, dedication to the simplest and the most complex of movements, the fierceness in expression and the fluid yet dynamic execution of partner contact work.

I must say I was surprised not to see more dancers of colour in the company. I know that this is an underlying issue which is very much rooted in the training system and from my own experience training, I know all too well that there is by no means an acceptable number of people of colour being accepted, engaged and supported appropriately through professional training schools and onto culturally diverse companies and quite frankly it’s saddening.

This is undoubtedly a piece not to be missed and I have great respect for choreographers like Bawren who use their artistic licence to not only play with abstract content but also to illuminate important stories we often don’t hear about via western media. Kudos all round and thanks DanceXchange for housing fantastic artists and work like this!

I hope to have engaged and encouraged you to share your comments and thoughts in response to the piece and my reviews, as well as transport you into the experimental world of contemporary dance.

ABOUT PAIGE / I’m an eccentric multi-faceted artist who graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2014. I love to read, write poetry, paint and watch indie films; music is my jam too. This season I have teamed up with Beatfreeks and DanceXchange to bring to you some exclusive dance reviews.