Brighton Fringe 2019
Sherise Strang takes us on an introspective journey inspired by the life and works of Maya Angelou. A powerful and confrontational solo dance performance exploring humanity, female identity, vulnerability, oppression and judgement.
The legacy of Maya Angelou is so potent and resonates so deeply with people and feels ever more relevant in our current unsettled world, that it is no surprise to find she is still inspiring so many young artists to create new works. I’d Had Enough So I Killed Him by Sherise Strang, is one such work. Produced by RIGHTABOUTNOW Inc under the arm of Flying Solo, this piece is also inspired by the 2015 documentary Human by Yann Arthus-Bertrand which aims to get to the core of what it means to be human. Likewise the intention of Strangs work is to ‘wash off the dirt to get to her core’, to make visible her inner world and she invites the audience to join her in her search for identity, strength and security. Strang has combined the poetry of Maya Angelou and film of her own grandmother to create a performance which reflects the struggles of both of these women, as well as her own struggles being a black woman in a predominantly white culture.
As the audience enters The Spire, the space is minimally lit and there is nothing but a square black dance floor, set in the centre, Strang sits on a chair, staring fixedly across at the far wall, almost dwarfed by the high vaulted ceiling of St. Mark’s Chapel. She is dressed in a simple floral cotton dress and heavy black work boots. In silence she walks to the front of the performance space and stares directly into the eyes of the audience, scanning everyone for an uncomfortably long time, setting up an intentional tension which is quite confronting and also sets the tone for this investigative piece. As Strang holds us in this staring contest there is a suggestion of unapologetic judgement, perhaps testing if we will judge her back, only broken when she walks back to the single chair and removes her boots. The unveiling has begun. She stands to face us again and we hear the sound of water and the dense, sweet drawl of Angelou’s voice fills the chapel with the familiar strains of her seminal poem, Still I Rise.
At first it appears there is no movement from Strang, as she again stares straight ahead but this time with less self-assurance, our attention is drawn to her fingers as they slowly, carefully curl around the fabric of her dress, pulling the hemline imperceptibly higher and higher, daring us to remain comfortable. The intoxicating tone and rhythm of Angelou’s words accompanied by a driving bass inform Strang’s repetitious trancelike swaying movements and as they grow increasingly larger and faster, the tension rises.
Strang’s choreography is emotively raw and visceral and although abstract, it effectively expresses her tumultuous and sometimes tortured inner journey. This work is unafraid to show the conflict between being, seeing and wanting to be seen. The movement language she is using is purposefully full of angst, writhing and twisting and it is executed with flawless precision, depicting he internal and external struggles well.
The musical elements of this piece are minimal yet dynamic and are punctuated by more of Angelou’s poetry, creating an atmosphere of tension and release, building momentum throughout. We hear passages from Rainbows In my Clouds, We Wear The Mask & Phenomenal Woman as Strang performs a visual investigation into her own psyche, channelling the resilient, unapologetic qualities inherent in Angelou’s poems. As she moves through hesitancy and oppression, frustration and restriction and the desire to have ownership of her body, her choreography flows effortlessly from the floor to the air through agonising backbreaking shapes to relief as she unshackles herself from herself.
In her attempt to strip back the social masks we wear, this piece has something of the purification ceremony about it and although it seem to end suddenly. Strangs desire for authenticity is laudable and her passion and focus are riveting. In her attempt to connect her experiences with those of the other women, she allows the audience to make a profound connection too.