The movement is small, just a little twisting within the hips. However like a tremor earlier than an earthquake, it alerts bigger shifts. Quickly, drums kick in and dancers explode into percussive motion — shaking, undulating, whacking the air with the power of these drums.
Fantastic moments like this recur in “Accommodating Lie,” the hourlong work that the Afro-Colombian company Sankofa Danzafro has introduced for its return to the Joyce Theater this week. And people explosions of reside drumming and dancing reawaken a stage that the Omicron surge had stored darkish and quiet since late December.
However because the work’s title suggests, Rafael Palacios, the corporate’s director and choreographer, has extra in thoughts. A program notice characterizes the work as a “highly effective name for consciousness” that seeks to dismantle stereotypes “about and round” the Black physique, addressing the sexualization and exotification of individuals of African descent throughout centuries of slavery and racism.
A number of occasions, the dancers line up throughout the stage and a vocalist begins calling out costs in Spanish. It’s an public sale, connecting this efficiency, this show of Black our bodies, to the slave commerce.
But the auctioneer’s voice, nested in drums, is so quiet and unemphatic that you would virtually miss it. That’s attribute of this manufacturing, whose message and supply are each curiously muted.
A lot of the symbolism comes by means of scenic design (by Álvaro Tobón), beginning with the curtain on the rear of the stage, made from straw like that used within the skirts as soon as worn by enslaved Afro-Colombian folks. By this barrier, the dancers enter and exit, the entangling strands often clinging to their our bodies. A few of them additionally put on these skirts, tugging on the twine to point out how they chafe. Or a dancer may path extra rope, like a leash held by different performers who wind it round her in maypole style.
The dance proceeds in a sequence of episodes, gradual and stretched out earlier than they erupt, accompanied as a lot by quiet flute, lullabies and tick-tocking marimba as by batteries of percussion. A person who appears to battle unseen opponents roars and collapses. One other man picks him up, in a pietà-shaped cradle carry, then units him again down earlier than serving to him rise once more with a convulsive, windmilling, resurrecting dance.
Even such swells of depth, although, really feel just a little underpowered or flickering. Even because the energy of the African diasporic connection to the drum is augmented with a touch of hip-hop, one thing appears tentative, maybe withheld. Might this be a part of the message, a refusal to go full out for an viewers?
Or is that simply Sankofa’s type? The work does have a giant end. The complete forged of eight dancers advances in ranks, throwing down their most emancipatory, drum-driven steps after which staring down the viewers from the lip of the stage. The auctioneer begins up once more, now with increased costs. Going as soon as. Going twice. Offered.
By Sunday on the Joyce Theater, joyce.org.