On Thursday, while on a campaign trip to Florida, President Obama held an impromptu photo op with a gaggle of day campers. The president leaned down to address the crowd of mostly brown-skinned children and asked, “Are you reading?”
Saturday night at Dance Place, a performance-art piece about the myths of success in black America offered a response: “I’m reading! I’m reading! I’m reading!” exclaimed Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. He was rolling on the floor chained to a basketball at the time. Moments before, Kosoko had chucked Zora Neale Hurston novels at the audience.
(Victoria Gaitan) - ”Double Consciousness” paired Washington-based writer and choreographer Holly Bass with Jaamil Kosoko, a Philadelphia-based button pusher. It wasn’t so much a night to remember as a night that was difficult to forget.
To say nothing was sacred in this evening of societal skewering would be an understatement. The show paired Washington-based writer and choreographer Holly Bass with Kosoko, a Philadelphia-based button pusher. It wasn’t so much a night to remember as a night that was difficult to forget.
Bass opened the show with a movement-tinged monologue about her family’s history of domestic work. It was more profound than “The Help,” and minus 90 minutes of melodrama. “Girls in White Dresses,” a short, visceral vignette, reimagined the beloved “brown paper packages” and “the bee sting” from the song “My Favorite Things” as a package of crack and a needle, respectively.
After intermission, Kosoko was back to perform a piece about black men, angry black women and the needy white girls they’d rather date. He made his point using a good deal of profanity and a blow-up doll. Recurring props, such as lines of baby powder and the basketball chain, cleverly connected each work on the program.
Bass finished the show with an ode to Don Cornelius. Turned out, the man who was “Like a black Dick Clark, only better,” offered her a job once. Now Cornelius is dead, the victim of a suicide the black community doesn’t seem to want to talk about. But Bass certainly does. She did the mashed potato. She did the pony. She brandished a pocket knife, held it to her head, then slashed open a faux punching bag hanging from the ceiling instead. Candy rained down, but the ending wasn’t even bittersweet, not for an audience that had been sucker-punched in the gut.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.