by Thea Nerissa Barnes
September 11, 2003 -- Jacksons Lane, London
I saw Bawren Tavaziva's
"Gule Dance" at Jacksons Lane 11 September 2003. "Gule
Dance" finds its inspiration in the Gule Wamkulu (Great Dance). This
dance is performed by secret societies of the Chewa people in Zimbabwe,
Africa. It is performed as a memorial service in celebration of the life
of a dead elder. Performed mostly at funerals, the dancers embody spiritual
forms that guide the dead to their resting place. Tavaziva's dance, though,
seems to have two stories to tell: the despair in finding a spiritual
resting place and competition between spirits.
The deceased seems in despair as she moved, especially when she encounters the spirits. The spirits seem to cajole and intimidate the deceased as much as they rankle with each other. The spirits confront, jest, and compete amongst themselves as well as perform tangled spacial paths and lifts with the deceased. All three spirits had a slightly different dynamic that figured in their relationship to each other. Whether standing or in a characterised stance or moving, all were different in character or tested each other's resolve.
As the dance ends,
Williams dares the other spirits with the amulets that lead to a group
movement. Chudhari joins the male spirits doing the same moves as Williams
makes her passage spiritually as she moves with a slow deliberate stride
across the back. This movement metaphor seemed to suggest that Chudhari's
spirit had made a choice and found its resting place with the elders.
Edited by Toba Singer.
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