Bayou Blues

Bayou Blues is beautiful. ‘Beauty’ is the girl’s name in this solo performance and she too is beautiful. Growing up in the segregated wards of New Orleans, however, she was never told that. Instead all she heard was, “You’re too black to be beautiful”. She had to wait many years, survive a hurricane, and move to another part of the USA before anyone looked at her and said, “You’re beautiful, you’re pretty”. In another triumph from the CalArts Festival Theater, this devised piece should leave you touched.

This moving production is a delight to behold.

Bayou Blues relates both the physical and emotional journey that dancer Shaina Lynn took from her birth in New Orleans to a new life in Virginia. It is told through movement, stories and poetry, music and recordings, sound effects, costume, colour and visual images. These, of course, are just the tools, but they are used to telling effect throughout this production and enhance the telling of her tale. Shaina Lynn is also well-equipped to draw on her wide-ranging skills as a performer, moving deftly through various settings and bringing to life the various characters that had impact on her early years. Her piercing eyes reach out to us and combine with the haunting tones of her voice to portray the sadness that dominates most of her story.

The story is ultimately one of hope, but the road from captivity to liberation was far from easy. Beauty grew up with the residue of slavery’s damaging effects and in the oppression of racial tension, not just between black and white people but also between those of differing shades of colour. In a city devoted to pleasure she feels the burden of being told how sinful it is to enjoy it. She feels as though she is drowning in the muddy waters of the bayou, being drawn further and further down. Ironically, it is the waters of Hurricane Katrina and the suffering they brought that ultimately set her free and led her to a new life and awareness of her true self.

The intentions behind some parts of this performance are not always clear, but such is its nature that we can place our own interpretations upon various scenes. Despite these unclear moments, and the sometimes dry nature of her exposition, this moving production is a delight to behold.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Enter the dream, the drowning dream of a girl named Beauty in the bayou of New Orleans. Dive into her conscious, journey into the waters that flood the bayou. Carrying residue of slavery’s damaging effects on black beauty and identity. This story is filled with the rich history of New Orleans taking the audience through Mardi Gras, Congo Square, bounce music and more. True elements to the poetry world now meet the traditions of monologue and dance. Exploring animation and how it relates or challenges visual projections of the world on stage and in Beauty’s world.