Review: Sakoba Dance Theatre - Aseju
The Place, London 6 & 7 March 2005
Bode Lawal is Sakoba Dance theatre's artistic director and choreographer. Judging from Aseju's (Excess) detailed programme notes, he is also a bit of a philosopher.
Aseju was performed in two parts: Part One consisted of two sections Group Intro and Ijogbon (Trouble) and Part Two consisted of seven sections, Commute, City, Image, Choices, Social Scene, Consequences and Ritual Dance.
Group Intro combined African dance movements, contemporary dance movements and a combination of the two. It was well executed and choreographed and a pleasure to watch. It started with what appeared to be five dancers walking backwards and then, quite surprisingly, one man broke out of the formation and started playing a drum and then another man broke out and started playing his drum. These two disappeared behind a semitransparent screen and were joined by a third musician. They continued playing African styled music which was rhythmic, attention grabbing and invigorating whilst the three dancers left were dancing African styled movements in a circle. Two other women entered the stage and began dancing in their own group. These two dancers' movements included whispering whilst holding up a hand to their respective ears (talking on a mobile!). The choreography was simplistic and effective.
Ijogbon was the section where the theatre part of Sakoba's 'dance theatre' started. This part combined speech with movement and centred around a man, Lawal, dressed as a woman, playing the part of an infertile wife. The storyline was this 'wife' ad been married to her husband for 10 years and hadn't been able to conceive and because of this, the husband went out, got a mistress and got her pregnant (she was showing). The wife ended up attacking the mistress, hitting and kicking her.
Although Lawal's performance in the role was strong, I didn't understand why one of the other female dancers couldn't play the part of the wife. The wife as she appeared was obviously a man in drag and this prevented me from 'believing' the story line. (Maybe the husband only just worked out the truth?) There was little real dance in this section.
Part Two's sections contained dance and were short, choppy and loosely held together. For me, the majority of the costumes, aside from those in Commute, City and Social Scene, came across as not suiting the work. Take for example, the black lycra mini-dress worn in Image. The woman in this scene was portraying what appeared to be a celebrity being photographed by the paparazzi. Her character came across as being glamorous, famous and fashion conscious but what she was wearing didn't match, it came across as looking cheap, and I wasn't able to 'believe' this character either.
Asjeu was like a good series of ideas that worked on paper in the form of the programme notes, but not on the stage. I wish I could've seen more of the dance style and movements Lawal created for the Group Intro as it showed real talent and there, maybe, lies the key to the artistic status and respect Lawal is seeking.