"I am not afraid" were among the first words uttered in "more more more . . . future" presented by the Walker Art Center this weekend. Such a simple statement, yet it set the tone for one of the most emotionally rich and politically daring artistic endeavors to land on a local stage. Through this work, choreographer Faustin Linyekula of Studios Kabako (based in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo) taps into the rage of a generation tormented by war and twisted ideology to deliver a compelling message about hope and resiliency.
Linyekula drew upon several elements to create "more more more." The text for the songs came from childhood friend Antoine Vumilia Muhindo, a political prisoner in Kinshasa who recently escaped and lives in hiding. The music, performed live, is rooted in Ndomobolo, a distinct Congolese pop hybrid of rumba, traditional rhythms, church fanfares and "sex machine" funk that fuels all-night club celebrations.
The evening began quietly. Dancers Linyekula, Papy Ebotani and Dinozord entered cautiously, their lanky bodies subtly undulating. They donned gorgeous multi-layered costume coats by Xuly Bët that transformed the trio into fanciful doll-like beings who bounced, loped and swooped their way through Linyekula's dynamic choreography.
Two forces of nature stepped up to the microphones and the work exploded with raucous fury. Tall gold-lamé-clad Pasnas growled through Muhindo's indictments of the ruling class. The compact Le Coq added his soaring melodic vocals and the band kicked in full-throttle. Music director Flamme Kapaya played his double-neck guitar with unparalleled flair while bassist Rémi Bassinta Nightness and drummer Patou Tempète Kayembe kept the pulse tight.
There was so much to see and hear one longs for another viewing. The work felt as epic as a rock opera. It channeled the nihilistic anger of punk rock in its churning energy, mosh-pit-like movement, and unrestrained shouts. In softer moments the relationship between the dancers was grippingly intimate, sensual and collaborative. And this connection extended to the musicians as well, especially when all of the performers gathered in a close circle to commune over shared rhythms.
Throughout, Muhindo's words urged a higher calling -- a demand for justice and dignity. Something more than a "cosmetic democracy." An end to the spite and violence. A brighter future that cannot come fast enough.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.