By using practices of the African diaspora in the forms of dance, text, and live music, the performers illuminated black experiences of activism, compromise, and resurgence. They told stories of history, oppression, protest, hope, anger, acceptance, community, and so much more.
With bent knees, backs parallel to the floor, hands akimbo, and elbows as wings, the artists in “Native Portal” took a stand. As their torsos twisted, their elbows alternated between pointing to the heavens and jutting towards the ground. They woke the earth Gods by stomping their feet – the ancestors … no longer resting. These images represented the downtrodden, oppressed, and the defeated. But these were not just dance positions, they were stories of lives lived.
On a mission to promote dialogue in pursuit of peace while encouraging diversity, Intercultural Journeys has a thirteen – year history bridging cultures through music, dance, spoken words, and other art forms. In a pre-talk oration, Intercultural Journeys curator and musician Alex Shaw, admitted that although the organization’s mission is to produce multiple disciplines, Lela Aisha Jones’ “Native Portals” was their first time presenting dance.
Having seen excerpts of “Portals”, I was prepared for the stories of transformation and restoration; stories told through moving bodies, accompanied by the edgy, vocal styling of singer Keisha Hutchins and opulent musicianship of saxophonist Nasir Dickerson and percussionist Jeffrey Johnson.
Jones along with other performing artists Amanda Edwards, Saroya Corbett, Peaches Jones, and Oiya Lowe, physicalized their social obligations by advocating for change – dancing for themselves but also for marginalized communities plagued by discrimination, intimidation, and tyranny.