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IMPRESSIONS: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival Featuring the World Premiere of Passion Fruit Dance Company's "Trapped" at Prospect Park Bandshell

IMPRESSIONS: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival Featuring the World Premiere of Passion Fruit Dance Company's "Trapped" at Prospect Park Bandshell
Toussaint Jeanlouis/ Follow Toussaint on Instagram:@creatous

By Toussaint Jeanlouis/ Follow Toussaint on Instagram:@creatous
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Published on September 20, 2021
Photo Valerie Magan

With Saadiq Bolden | Soul Summit & St James Joy

Sept 10, 2021

Performance: Passion Fruit Dance Company Members Tatiana Desardouin, Mai Lê Hô, Lauriane Ogay, Nubian Néné, and Gyeun Jeong with Saadiq Bolden / Soul Summit & St. James Joy

Music production: Saadiq “The Last Musician” Bolden with Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah’s “Encryption”

The sun sets, and the sky deepens its blue. Behind a silhouette of trees, house music pulses. “This reminds me of the raves and parties of summers ago,” I hear someone say.

Untethered in the excitement of the moment, I follow the crowd as we file into the park to show proof of vaccination. This is the current normal.

The bass beats awake my senses, chipping away at my intent to conserve my hip-shaking and knee-bending dance moves. I don’t want to embarrass myself and look foolish in front of people. I’m dusty.

A man in a fedora and suit jacket plays guitar, his eyes closed. To his side, a man in a hat works DJ equipment.
Passion Fruit Dance Company's TRAPPED with Saadiq Bolden | Soul Summit & St James Joy; Photo Valerie Magan

Suddenly, St. James Joy spins a soundscape that cross-cuts, landing into a song with a slower rhythm and new vibe. How aggravating. But this is intentional. I’d be lost if it weren’t for the DJ’s confidence.

For thirty minutes we’re on an old-fashioned road trip with analog radio and St. James Joy driving, and they can’t keep their hand from moving the dial. Standing next to the tech booth, I feel the bass hitting louder and deeper.

The crowd roars. Dancers enter. Lights change. My apologies DJ, you were searching for the right station. We’ve made it to the highway, and it’s time to hit the gas.

Covered in soft knit cloth from fingertip to toe, the dancers remind me simultaneously of my years in experimental theatre and Martha Graham’s Lamentation. Five diverse-looking women pop and groove to a rhythm that seems to burst out of them. House music with jazz infusions ignite.

Four dancers are encased in tubes of purple fabric as they extend clasped hands to the sky. Lights stream from above them.
Passion Fruit Dance Company's TRAPPED with Saadiq Bolden | Soul Summit & St James Joy; Photo Valerie Magan

Initially, the onslaught of scenes performed by the company presents an indecipherable, disjointed story. Soon riffs of repetitive action woven with motifs of boxing, basketball, and odes to Michael and Janet Jackson, recapture my attention.

Watching the dancers move, I begin to understand that their language is my language. Their gestures elicit soliloquies, sermons, poetry, and commandments compelling us to be present and aware. They guide us to free our constraints and release ourselves from being cooped up, over-protected, and withheld.

Once again I try to refrain from dancing but my knees are bouncing, my shoulder itches, and I’m rolling my neck (because it’s tight, OK ). I can’t help it.

Soul is expressed through the articulated flow of Tatiana Desardouin. Nubian Néné, small but mighty, dances in vogue, effortlessly across the floor to the music of a jazz flute. She hits every note, tone, and inflection with a flick of her wrist. Lauriane Ogay, Mai Lê Hô, and Gyuen Jeong surprise me with solos that break away from the group shackled to the floor.

Against arches of purple, pink, and orange light, the members of Passion Fruit Dance Company groove. Downstage, one kneels while, behind her, two gesticulate.
Passion Fruit Dance Company's TRAPPED with Saadiq Bolden | Soul Summit & St James Joy; Photo Valerie Magan

Projections behind the dancers show women in seductive poses.  The sound of bullets advances as one of the dancers grapples to remove what appear to be heavy chains, finally shooting them.

Perhaps this refers to intersectionality, feminism, or “breaking the chains that bind all women.”

I feel guilty now for thinking the projections were seductive instead of showing women simply living, fully present and holding space.

Soul Summit spins a record and the crowd exalts. Sage is lit and wafts through the audience. I feel protected, cleansed.  We are removing our COVID cocoon.

Behind the bandshell, beams illuminating the space where the Twin Towers once stood, shine into outer space. “Never forget.”

Along with my joy, I’m hit with a flood of memories and a realization: A life lived is unpolished and we make it through one groove at a time.


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