‘L’Antoinette’s Dream’ keeps changing
L'Antoinette's Dream keeps changing. That is not a charge of inconsistency against Dr L'Antoinette Stines, artistic director and chief choreographer of L'Acadco, the dance company she founded. It is a statement of fact about L'Acadco's current season at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts (PSCCA), University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
Named L'Antoinette's Dream, it comprises a different set of dances each night. This review is of Sunday's concert. Of course, with 21 dances in the season's repertoire and about a dozen dances on each night, some works will be repeated. Seven new dances come from the show's 10 choreographers.
The key to appreciating a L'Acadco season lies in Stines' statement to Sunday's audience, that "L'Acadco is not a performance. It is an experience." Stines doesn't want you to merely watch a show; she wants you to participate in it.
That is why she has emcees who talk directly to the audience, making jokes and giving information about the dancers, dances, choreographers and the spiritual state of the nation. There are three emcees, multitalented theatre practitioners Karen Harriott, Fabian Thomas and Webster McDonald.
Stines delights in doing unusual, creative things. She often has her dancers voice their feelings. They will talk, groan, sigh, scream and make other expressive sounds.
Even the 'oneness' theme of this season goes against the orthodox. The 'dream' of the show's title refers to Stines' desire to have "the dancers, drummers, choreographers and storytellers that she loves" in the production.
But her guests don't just bring their own pieces. She asks them to dance in her own. This was probably not the wisest of decisions. Why, for example, have a dancer of the stature and ability of the National Dance Theatre Company's (NDTC) Marlon Simms appear in the equivalent of the chorus of Abuzuike and in an odd, free-form piece called As Yet Unchoregraphed that is not listed in the printed programme?
Of the 13 dances mounted on Sunday, seven were outstanding. Chat Bout Dem (choreographed in 2009 by Stines) has a powerful black pride message. ... minutes and seconds (Kerry-Ann Henry and Momo Sanno, 2010) was fluidly danced by Henry and Simms. The Zong (Amanyea Stines, 2016) is an emotionally gripping work about hanging, choking, being shackled and violence.
Fling Fling (Holgate, 2016) is a highly stylised, cheerfully danced piece set in a schoolyard. Is It Enough? (an excerpt from a longer Stines 2014 dance) shows the painful separation of a slave couple, set to Kamau Brathwaite's anti-colonialism poem Negus. The Satta solo (Stines, 1979) is sinuously danced by overseas guest dancer N'Jelle Gage. And the closing dance, Abuzuike (Stines, 2013) is gorgeously costumed and energetically executed to an intense, complex drum soundscape.
Tony Wilson's The Web (2016) might have made the list, except that the six dancers wore black and danced in near darkness, so it was difficult to see them. (Generally speaking, the lighting operator seemed to favour darkness to light, which is curious).
An interlude of frenetic drumming by the drum orchestra was also a crowd-pleaser. Most of the drummers moved around the stage constantly, giving the eye as well as the ear a treat.
And at the end, Stines asks you to hold hands with other patrons while she prays that everyone gets home safely.