Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Last weekend, international dance artist David Zambrano presented his directed dance performance, Soul Project, as part of the three-week workshop, Center, Gravity, Rhythm: Global Forces in Dance Making. Soul Project was an extraordinary and spontaneous performance featuring six international performers. At the beginning, a performer emerged from the audience and began his piece about a watch. He huffed and puffed as he had a war in his mind to determine whether the watch on his wrist belonged to him. Dancing back and forth through the audience, the performer gave us a lively introduction of what Soul Project was all about.
After the introduction in the lobby, everyone moved into the theater and walked onto the stage. Soul Project was unique in the fact that the audience was front and center with the performers on stage. Intimacy dominated the setting. You could have seen every sweat drop, heard every breath, and marveled at every movement. Soul Project eradicated the separation between audience and performer seen in traditional performances. I, along with the rest of the audience, felt more engaged in Soul Project since there was a constant shifting in positioning. After one solo was finished, the audience immediately looked around to find next performer. A few minutes into the show, it seemed like Soul Project had developed a pattern where after one performer finished, another would appear. Nevertheless, the performers changed up the pace and started walking through the audience to build anticipation for the next piece.
I experienced no restrictions during the Soul Project because I had the freedom to move to any spot on stage. Just like the audience, the performers had freedom not only to roam around the stage but to interpret the music however they wanted. The dances felt more spontaneous than choreographed, and they were not what you would have expected. The moves were weird and unusual, but I couldn’t help keeping my eyes on the performers. Each one put a unique personality in the pieces. One was very rigid and precise while another was very fluid and wave-like. One danced with aggression and drama, while another danced with pep, spirit, and cheeriness. The man who brought this whole show together, David Zambrano, performed with theatricality and playfulness.
The audience was put in an awkward and even uncomfortable situation during the show because the performers got up in their faces, pushed them aside, grabbed their arms, and worst of all for any Swattie, they made eye contact! However, that awkwardness and uncomfortableness dissipated quickly because those feelings turned into laughter. The interactions with the audience added comedy to a show full of serious and dramatic dances.
One of the most important aspect to the show was the music. The singers ranged from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Tine Turner, Patti Labelle to James Brown and Baby Huey. The songs were classic, powerful, and of course soulful. Music blasted around the stage and at times overwhelmed the audience. But, the roaring music paired with the phenomenal dancing blended to immerse mind, body, and soul.
Overall, Soul Project was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Once you think you had it figured out, the show would once again disorient you. Soul Project thrived on the disorganization and the randomness of life. Everyone on stage, both dancers and the audience, had freedom: the freedom to move the way you want and feel what you want to feel.
Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore College