Best of the Fest? Best show of the year? Time will tell. But Universes had four microphones, and four humans, that was about all. The Works was near deserted (inside) when they took the stage, and they weren’t looking too thrilled to be facing a thinned out, eager to dance, uneager to get deep crowd.
Less than an hour later the place was packed, people were yelling, and the blood was rushing in my ears. No one was glad that they were ending their set.
Along the way they rolled through a mixture of spoken word, bad ass poetry, roaring recreations/medleys of traditional songs and sheer, intensive shrieks to high heavan over throbbing, thump room shaking rhythms (all created by human voice and stomps).
Their work was complex, tricky, genre bending and so, so tight. It’s the goal of T:BA to leave you scratching your head as you try to drop a performance into an easy box, and a goal to have you lost in a performance, letting it hit you directly in a vunerable place because you CAN’T put it in a box. Try to stuff Universes into a ‘hip hop theatre/performance poet box’ and company member Mildred Ruiz would just let one note thunder from deep inside her and blow that shit wide open.
Talking with Mildred and Steven Sapp after the show, they were saying that they’ve been stuck a bit with their show Slanguage which they created over 5 years ago. They’ve moved on to several new kinds of work, and yet they still mostly tour that older show, the one they are identified with. They also laughed about how a review for Slanguage said ‘imagine their power, with all this energy and brilliance, if they actually scripted their work. Steven laughed, and said that it was funny because all their work is scripted first, since they are poets and writers. But that somehow, pouring out in such a frenzy, audiences feel like they are making it up on the spot.
I like what Mildred said in front of the crowd too, she said ‘We’re about to get deep here, look you can go back to dancing in a few minutes, but let’s go there now’. Isn’t that the point of this festival…you know it always ends with dancing, lets get deep during the day. Which artists are ready and willing to take us deep.
Who else at this festival is talking about that our country is in a war as we party down? Who else in this festival is outraged about the people who brought us Katrina clean up?
Who else is freaked out for November, and what comes next? Well, Kiki was.
Contemporary art doesn’t have to be overtly political, but it’s supposed to be about here and now. And here and now is a little screwed up. And somebodies gotta let out a roar of outrage, and somebodies gotta let a little hope shine in during this festival.
And somebody did.