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The colonial image of the black woman with bared upper body is rewritten in Legacy by Nadia Beugré at @HollandFestival

A sizable group of women, their skin all shades of brown, white and black, their breasts and chests hopping briskly to the beat of stepping and running movements in place, swarmed around their own axis as they entered the venue at the Brakke Grond. Legacy is an intimate performance that moves loosely up and down between concert, performance, ritual, pure dance and participation in every sense.

Don't get riled up

Stories of black women who took fate into their own hands and paid for it with death or other gruesome sacrifice form the starting point of Legacy. But the performance exudes a steadfast calm and deliberate nonchalance, as if Beugré has no desire to be riled up and make vehement political statements.

Together with a group of women from Amsterdam and the surrounding area, accompanied by the solid sound mix, vocals and bass guitar riffs of Manou Gallo, Beugré embodies the stories through a succession of simple gestures, such as the shared march tempo, a fist raised in the air or a shout from one of the throats.

Beugré and its partner in crime Hanna Hedman move like guardians, mothers and brothers with the group, which is slowly gaining steam. The colonial image of the black woman with bared upper body is rewritten by the way the women appropriate it without much fuss. The story of the women's protest at Grand-Bassam and Abidjan in Ivory Coast in 1949, which was decisive for decolonisation, is briefly described in the performance flyer.

Togetherness

In the performance itself, Beugré mainly emphasises the togetherness of the bodies, the finding of a mutual rhythm in difference, of a stolid persistence in acting. It is a picture-perfect sight, all the upper bodies silently in motion. It also briefly reminds me of the time in the Netherlands, sometime in the late 1970s, when women left their bras in the closet en masse and on the beach it became normal to ohne oben to appear. Those times are over.

A wonderful example of audience participation occurs when Hanna Hedman asks a man from the audience to help her. He has to firmly pull her arm back so that she can just keep her body balanced in the countermovement. "If you push me here, it is easy to forget," Hedman says over and over again. Finally, they trot around the arena together in a seemingly impossible pose, the audience chuckling on small stages around them. That the manipulation of black women by white men is a tradition barely discussed in public, and has only just made it to the pages of high school textbooks in the Netherlands, is a thought you have to come up with yourself as a spectator.

Sharper

Sharper is the duet danced by Beugré and Hedman. Subtly, loose actions are choreographically arranged on the border of performance and dance. Beugré manages to convey the wit of everyday concerns. It has something extremely personal, but also remains completely open, unobtrusive. Sexual the duet is too, without ever becoming pronographic.

Photo: Dylan Piaser.

To the extent that you would want to speak of highlights at all, Beugré's ritual solo - naked except for a red thong, later enveloped in a garment of bras knotted together - still makes the most impression. After the audience is given a swig of whiskey to open the ritual, and the group of women raise a sky of bras, she throws her body into the fray. Her (unfortunately unintelligible) dialogue with Manou Gallo, who regularly takes to the stage anyway with and without a guitar, also describes a wonderful kind of clarity or enlightenment. Using your body as a weapon, proudly pointing out your opponents, it is an old and beautiful thing. It is also far removed from the passive, domesticated or smashed victim of violence, the hysterical or triumphant sexual female body that we see so often.

In Legacy, Beugré manages to very carefully connect the intimacy of women among themselves with personal gestures and historical narratives, which are about struggles and sacrifices, without the women having to be sacrificed again. Sexuality, desire, voice and action, they are all gentle gestures shared in naturalness.

After Legacy (2015) brought Beugré last autumn Tapis Rouge out, which was held in October during Afrovibes featured. In addition, she is attached for five years as a resident at Forward in Ghent. She is also collaborating with Dorothée Munyaneza and Boris Charmatz. All things to look forward to.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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