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Like Wateris a hypnotic short film that appropriately caps a year when Black Lives Matter became an irrepressible global movement. Filmed on a deserted beach, where gentle waves slowly fold and unfold on the sand, it features five Ballet Black dancers, whose deeply expressive movements respond to a powerful and poetic text by the young South African actress Asisipho Malunga.
The text, recited on voice over by Like Water choreographer Mthuthuzeli November, delves into the ancestral memories of Black Africans, indelibly associated with slavery and transportation across the ocean, 'the only connection with home being the ocean herself'.
Yet, Like Water is more than a lament; it's an affirmation of Black identity and pride. To quote from the text again 'how dare you be so black, so proud? I say, how dare you not?'
Choreographer Mthuthuzeli November has come a long way since he joined Ballet Black, the UK's only company for dancers of Black and Asian descent, as an apprentice dancer in 2015. Already an established name in his native South Africa, he quickly developed his talent as a choreographer, and his previous work for Ballet Black, Ingoma, won the 2020 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.
In Like Water, which he also directs, November extracts from his dancers a mix of emotions, ranging from the repetitive collective work of slavery, torsos bent, arms pounding or plucking from the earth to the emancipatory dance of one woman (Isabella Coracy), her head raised high, arms reaching up, legs kicking defiant developés, feet kissed by the sea.
The short film is shaped as a ritual of remembrance. As it draws to an end to the atmospheric sound of Georgina Lloyd-Owen's cello, the words 'we meet at the water's edge for cleaning and forgiveness' prompt a slower coming to terms, a catharsis.
Director of Photography Nauris Buksevics creates limpid visual frames that exert a strong pull on the viewer, drawing us in.
In short, Like Water is an intense meditation on blackness, dignity and pride, beautifully danced and totally engaging. It should be seen.
|What||Ballet Black. Like Water|
|Where||Online | MAP|
30 Dec 20 – 30 Dec 21, Available to Downstream Dur.: 10 mins