Review: ADAD Trailblazers - Exposure - The Place

Performance: 31 May 2014
Reviewed by Carole Edrich - Monday 9 June 2014

ADAD Trailblazer Idrissa Camara, with Oumar Alamamy. Photo: Carole Edrich

Exposure, the ADAD Trailblazers showcase at The Place gave an exciting snapshot view of a selection of radically different dance art forms. Curator and Trailblazer Champion Denise Rowe explained the rationale behind its theme: “The ripples [between the land and people as a collective] keep expanding, in our community and the whole of the living cosmos. I don’t see that we are separate and dance is a way of recognising that”

ADAD’s strategy of helping enthusiastic dance leaders develop their art has born fruit in Sagatala. Encouraged by dramaturge Funmi Adewole, Trailblazer Idrissa Camara, with Oumar Alamamy Camara, co-choreographed and performed an examination of traditional Guinean dominant masculine identity and the rituals, behaviours and initiations that are inherent in the passage of knowledge between generations. I enjoyed special touches which indicated that the performance had been carefully considered and developed. The most pronounced of these was how traditional polyrhythmic dance segued into and out of a more lyrical mode, describing the conflict between masculine tradition and male vulnerability in a society so fraught with socio-political uncertainties. More understated was the subtle change from traditional Guinean movements into slightly more contemporary representations, depicting the maintenance of ideologies through the ages and the inevitable evolution of their practice.

Cleo Lake’s solo Israel Rock Stone – a blend of drum and base Jungle and Kumina (Jamaican) moves, was hard core and opaque with an emotional improvisation that was both energetic and punchy (in the literal meaning of the word rather than figurative). I couldn’t penetrate the pain to see the migration of the Ga tribe from Israel to Ghana in the dance but it’s nonetheless clear that ADAD’s objectives have been achieved. As Chairman of Staples Carnival in Bristol, Cleo has been responsible for one of the most popular annual events of the area.

I first saw Cindy Claes’ Is My Whining Winding You Up some time ago in a sharing, and this solo Time is Ticking, Phone is Ringing is clearly a development of what she then took to Sadler’s Wells and performed in two Wild Card programmes. The message, dance philosophy and Cindy’s inimitable sense of humour remain and are further refined, but during the rehearsal I wondered at the advisability of simplifying the plot. In the evening her target audience proved me wrong. They screamed and cheered Cindy as Protagonist as she fought with herself and society in deciding between competing priorities of love or success.

As the only performing Trailblazer Champion, Denise Rowe’s direct association with ADAD has been for seven years. She told me the first Trailblazer award (with which she went to stay with the hunter gatherers in the rain forest of Cameroon) gave her the confidence to follow her own passion rather than trying to fit herself into someone else’s idea. That certainly comes across. She Who Walks – The Bridge is the third stage of a mentored project on women, land and ancestry. It was accompanied by some beautiful filmed imagery of dancers and the natural landscape, while the changes in her choreography between African polyrhythms to the homorhythmic moves of unstructured environmental dance connected past and present.

Compere Vicky Ubokwe, (also a Sadler’s Wells Wild Card curator) left early the following day for the third of a series of exciting choreographic contracts demonstrating that ADAD’s Trailblazer Champion strategy is working well. Exposure, the showcase event itself, attended by many old Trailblazers, was a thought-provoking fusion of African diasporic dances with other disciplines and something of which all can be justifiably proud.

Carole Edrich is a dance photographer and photojournalist who writes regularly for Dance Today. See more of her work on

Photos: Carole Edrich

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