Re-membering, a dance concert of works by Taylor Madgett and Kshitija C. Saturdekar, was held on October 4 and 5 and hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Theatre and Dance department.
The show featured pieces by two dance MFA students, Madgett and Saturdekar, and tackled themes like Africanist inheritance and the role of tradition. Both pieces look into the past at previous histories, cultures, and traditions as roadmaps and guides through the future.
Madgett’s piece specifically addressed the complexities and challenges of having a black identity in America and relationships to African heritage. The piece includes dance, sound, live singing, and projection art.
She explained in a Q&A, ” I personally sometimes struggle with the double consciousness of being African American, in particular not knowing enough about my African heritage while also being othered as a black person in America, resulting in not feeling wholly connected to either component of my identity.”
By looking back into the past, the show “tries to take a stab at potential solutions, in particular by looking at what remnants may remain/may be often overlooked within ourselves that point to a deeper connection to African roots,” said Madgett.
“Remnants,” Madgett’s piece, opens on her seated with her back towards the audience. A screen against the back of the stage is lit a beautiful, deep purple. A tall, older man slowly walks onto stage. His voice is deep, and he sings about being a long way from home. The piece is immediately intergenerational: the man is Madgett’s father.
Individual pieces are marked by his singing as well as changes in music and dance style. The nine dancers move from West African to street dance styles. The subtle changes give the audience the experience of traveling through past histories and traditions.
At one point in the show, the dancers assemble on the floor as if they were on a ship, and the sound of water begins playing. In the context of the piece, this moment felt like an allusion to the Middle Passage. As a viewer, I found myself wishing that there were more black dancers in a piece that discusses blackness and relationships to African lineages, especially with the bodies of the dancers alluding to such powerful images in black history.
However, the lack of diversity and presence of black performers was understandable and seemed to reflect a reality of casting for the piece, and art-making in Boulder in general. Nonetheless, the dancers executed precise and complicated choreography effortlessly and with many cheers during the show from the audience.
Saturdekar’s piece, “prathā,” included elements of classical Indian dance fused with contemporary and street styles. The music spans from traditional classical Indian music to a song by the British group The Prodigy.
The piece began with a beautiful solo from Saturdekar set to music by Anoushka Shankar. Saturdekar sets the scene with gentle hand gestures from Indian classical dance, and then the other dancers entered, bringing more fusion and contemporary dance elements.
The piece deals with tradition, historical binaries, and hierarchies of traditional movement, something queer people and artists know a lot about. Saturdekar said, “My research in dance has always involved roles of gender, society, and gaze in dances and the expectations and opinions surrounding a dancing body.”
The performance included projection art as well, which echoed themes of conflict between rigidity and deviation. Other elements matched the journey away from tradition as well, with dancers removing their hair from buns and ponytails, literally letting their hair loose.
Compared to “Remnants,” Saturdekar was more present in her piece, and the her playful expressions and interactions with the other dancers made the show engaging and lively. Saturdekar’s sense of play and enjoyment while dancing was clear and palpable to audiences. Additionally, the combination of different styles made for engaging and distinctive choreography.
The work also incorporated visual effects aside from projection. The work included the use of a scrim, a screen of fabric that is see-through when lit. During the dance, Saturdekar danced from behind the scrim, with another dancer echoing her movements. It was a moment of technical precision, as Saturdekar and dancer Constance Harris were synchronized before splitting into different choreography. The sequence was stunning and also questioned how we are affected by the past in ways invisible to us.
As a whole, Re-membering reminds us to do just that. The works used projection, sound, and movement to draw on the past as a framework for growth and for the future.