With newly imple­men­ted policy, Valer­ie’ Law  ask­ing the UK to invest in the pro­tec­tion of black women exper­i­en­cing domest­ic abuse, it comes as no sur­prise that Body Polit­ic’s show, THEM cho­reo­graphed by Jack­ie Kibuka asks Hip Hop theatre audi­ences to con­tin­ue the con­ver­sa­tion, spot­lit­ting trauma and men­tal health through an hour long phys­ic­al dia­logue of female fero­city and expres­sion. 

The piece starts with three women sit­ting on wooden chairs, centre stage with an empty chair each around them, rep­res­ent­ing the pres­ence of anoth­er listen­ing in. Voice-overs echoed on stage, almost whis­per­ing com­mon gas­light phrases such as “shake it off”. The chairs allude to a mundane domest­icity and the com­mon­al­ity between dan­cers and audi­ence of the events that are about to pass. The trio breathe togeth­er, a con­jur­ing of energy of sis­ter­hood and togeth­er­ness in a paprit­ory fash­ion before a chair cho­reo­graphy emerges in a the­at­ric­al feng shui type motion. The 6 chairs on stage are sud­denly dan­cing, spin­ning and whirl­ing like a vor­tex, pulling the audi­ence into the lives of these three women.

The con­stant point­ing at one­self, often used in Krump to denote speech (also point­ing in gen­er­al is used in Lock­ing to ges­ture sharp dir­ec­tion and as funky styl­ist­ic aid to exude fun) was clev­erly used to trace, isol­ate and almost dis­mem­ber the body as though con­fu­sion and pat­ri­archy are inscribed in and pre­scribed onto us as women. 

The dia­logue then begins to be uttered by the per­formers onstage, mov­ing from the per­ceived internalised/questioning of the own­er­ship of thoughts through voice overs to a clear dis­tinc­tion of the jour­ney being faced by each per­former. “Are you home safe”, “I’m fine”, “it’s my fault.” “It hap­pens to every­one” Later the con­ver­sa­tion evolved into dark humour which addressed us as an audi­ence- “do rape alarms still exist?’, a test­a­ment to how long the struggle to abol­ish gender based viol­ence has exis­ted and the absurdity of its desens­it­ised hil­ar­ity.   

There were many beau­ti­ful images cre­ated by the dan­cers but one in par­tic­u­lar was the cradling an empty chair like a baby which instantly induced the need for embrace and care that is often not afforded to female vic­tims & sur­viv­ors, par­tic­u­larly black women.

The notion of con­sent landed in the middle of the piece after a the­at­ric­al iter­a­tion of the age old “I’ve had one too many drinks at the party’ situ­ation plays out. At the end of the party, one dan­cer is left on the floor; rolling, turn­ing and swiv­el­ling. The chair vor­tex anarchy from the open­ing of the piece had now been trans­formed onto a sin­gu­lar body. This sec­tion spoke to the #met­oo move­ment star­ted by sur­viv­or and black act­iv­ist, Tarana Burke. This move­ment is mirrored with­in the dance industry by cen­ter­ing white women. This part of the work reit­er­ates the import­ance of high­light­ing and cent­ring the exper­i­ences of black women.  

The apex of the piece was sig­nalled when the three dan­cers all stood on equidistant placed chairs upstage, await­ing their final slog at unpack­ing their shared oppres­sion. A fury of col­lect­ive breath, vigour and rage orbited through the space as per­cuss­ive uni­son vor­texes trans­formed into a tor­nado ensemble. Each dan­cer explod­ing with pre­cise rigour; a cul­min­a­tion point of the exper­i­ences pri­or. All seems clear now, not dis­com­bob­u­lated. The dan­cers were then pulled back to their chairs; a tense invis­ible bun­gee run, anchor­ing, draw­ing them back to their epis­od­ic domest­ic trap.  

“I wish she’d believed me” was one of the final phrases spoken at the end of the piece as the dan­cers sat to delib­er­ate their jour­ney, ham­mer­ing home the need for women to be vin­dic­ated.

With the hor­rif­ic killings of Nicole Small­man and Bib­aa Henry in Lon­don and Asia Maynard in Mis­souri, it’s high time we all did our bit col­lect­ively to restore human­ity upon the lives of black women and women at large in order to fight for their lib­er­a­tion and men­tal health. Body Politic’s, THEM brings to light the need for change, action and most import­antly, for female voices to be heard.

Catch THEM on 18th  March at Swin­don Dance


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Valerie Ebuwa

Valer­ie “wing girl” Ebuwa is a freel­ance dance artist and yoga teach­er from East Lon­don. She is cur­rently dan­cing for 3 con­tem­por­ary dance com­pan­ies and is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.

About Valerie Ebuwa

Valerie "wing girl" Ebuwa is a freelance dance artist and yoga teacher from East London. She is currently dancing for 3 contemporary dance companies and is one of the founding members of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.