Challenging, daring, with longeurs but also explosive moments, this makes for uncomfortable viewing but is a much-needed and to be applauded show. ‘Wear the mask that grins and lies…’ a line from Maya Angelou’s 1987 spoken word poem inspired the title of this show,
Drenched in history, not as it’s taught in schools but shrugging, shimmering, pulsing.
The two dancers, both now based in Scotland, are a good contrast in skills: the superb, long-limbed and lithe Divine Tasinda and the muscular Kemono L.Riot who excels in Poppin and Krumping. Mele Broomes, the director and choreographer founded V/DA as a way of connecting with the black diaspora in Glasgow, to share experiences and challenge objectifying perceptions. Grin is part of the ‘Made in Scotland Showcase’ and premiered at the DIG (Dance International Glasgow) Festival in 2019.
The show opens with beautiful visuals of yellow fruits and then fades to linger on a twinkling landscape cityscape at night of unclear provenance, or possibly a phosphorescent ocean. Unfortunately the dance takes an age to get going (Eight minutes - I timed it) but don’t be put off. It is well worth waiting for (or possibly since this is digital, could be fast forwarded) to when two carnivalesque creatures emerge, their faces and bodies covered in a costume of shaggy tinsel. But these are not joyful apparitions, rather there is a sinister undertone created by the robotic movements and pulsing soundtrack.
The longeurs are made up for by explosive confrontational moments such as when Divine Tasinda, in close-fitting singlet and shorts, lounges on the floor wriggling her hip up and down, in what might have been sexy apart from the aggressive, scary look in her eyes. Towards the end of the show we are at last treated to more carefree and joyful dancing and some stunning scat singing. The Director of Photography Daniel Hughes and Lighting Design by Michaella Fee are superb.
Tense and challenging, this is an emotional journey for the audience and dancers alike drenched in history, not as it’s taught in schools but shrugging, shimmering, pulsing, rising and falling, drifting, floating… feel the rhythm. I recommend watching the audio-described version for an unusual take.