Sunday, September 23, 2012

Faustin Linyekula's Le Cargo

Faustin Linyekula in Le Cargo. Photo: Agathe Poupeney
Le Cargo, Faustin Linyekula's solo performance at Florence Gould Hall, part of FIAF's thought-provoking Crossing the Line festival, began last Tuesday night during a deluge that required wading ankle-deep through white caps on Madison Avenue. The audience, soggy to a soul, commiserated with one another for having to endure the inclemency. Then Linyekula took the stage, clutching books and a little anthropomorphic stool, and began telling stories (despite declaring that he had come not to tell stories, just to dance).

"War, crisis, war, crisis..., " he repeated numerous times of his homeland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By now, our collective self-pity had abated, attention diverted appropriately to the stage and his stories, or non-stories. He spoke of the incredible effort of taking the train from the city to Obilo, his hometown 82 miles away. Apparently it runs infrequently enough so that the foliage grows over the tracks; people with machetes have to hack a clearing for the train, making for glacial progress. So Linyekula wound up riding a motorbike with his father ("father, father, my dad-dee," as he repeated regularly in his entrancing sing-song voice), needing only a few hours. 

He began explaining why he dances and wiggling his fingers. Contrary to an expected politically correct explanation along the lines of preserving and passing along his heritage, he simply explained that he gets paid, and he supports his extended family by doing so. He makes a living taking his storytelling and dance all over the world. It is a frankness that we're not used to hearing, or if we do, it's usually to plead poverty.

In due time, Linyekula did start to dance with his whole body. It's a peculiar style, the movement seemingly generated from his gut outward, shuffling his feet or kicking them sideways, upper body fairly contained and tight, arms extending on occasion. The performance was in sharp contrast to last year's spectacularly showy more, more, more... at the Kitchen, when composer/musician Flamme Kapaya's rock band performed (he also composed music for Le Cargo), and Linyekula and a couple of other dancers wore ruffled costumes resembling car wash brushes. 

Le Cargo did underscore the divide between sources such as dance circles, in which individual expression is framed within a communal context, and a somewhat sterile stage in Manhattan, where Linyekula was surrounded onstage by spotlights instead of other dancers. He has carved out an intriguing niche with his blend of there and here.

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