NAPPY Dance Collective is the first Black contemporary dance company in Calgary. Their inaugural performance at the GRAND Theatre in the heart of downtown Calgary was the marking of a significant moment in the contemporary dance ecosystem. It was the first time a dance performance featured only Black artists onstage and that everyone who was part of the creation process was also Black and performed to a mostly BIPOC audience.
The performance opened with a dance film, which was shot at the GRAND, created by Tiara Matusin and Cindy Ansah in collaboration with NAPPY dancers Christahh Ahh, Jared Tobias Herring, Mpoe Mogale and also starred Michèle Moss. Set to I Don’t Want Nobody by Eddie Harris, it’s a dance film of a series of projected images on the backs of the dancers, as they move as a collective group. Their limbs and skin all mesh together and I found myself wishing I knew what the footage being projected on the dancers depicted, as I’m sure it held significance. The film is high quality and well shot by Jesse Klein-Waller, but it leaves the audience craving the in person of that performance. It’s an average opening to the evening, a good set up to what’s to come, but the performance would not have changed significantly if it was ommitted.
Happenings is all performed on fake grass, with the dancers costumed in brown body suits. Featuring choreography by Ansah, the performance is a melding of bodies that carry each other. They come together, and fall apart. They lean on each other, they build together, they break down together. This piece is mature creation and showcases the strength of the dancers, but doesn’t have a lot of diversity of movement. The sound design is a composition by Misgana Mentesonot featuring “Yeh Come T’Be” by Jeanne Lee, “Transition East” by Angel Bat Dawid, “As Long As Fake Robes Unravel Fake Rolex Will Travel” by Dean Blunt & an original score by Misgana Mentesonot.
The entire piece has something visceral and vulnerable to it and explores beginning and ending, together in bridges of strength, it explores the way we carry each other and it is a fascinating exploratory piece.
The Silver Cord, choreographed by Matusin, changes the staging and has television sets in the corner of the stage, with a video camera, recording the movement on stage. It is a fascinating look at what changes when you are being watched. This piece features more solos and is more diverse movement on stage.
NAPPY’s first performance is just the beginning and it is a great beginning and I look forward to what is to come and how this company will build, with their home based in Calgary, Alberta. This is a promise of what’s to come and we are in for great things that will give us something to ponder.
Photo Credit: Dayo Eleda