Recently, I went to see Tavaziva’s latest dance performance called IZINDAVA at the Lilian Baylis Theatre. Tavaziva, who is currently on tour in the UK, is an African Contemporary dance company, led by Zimbabwean born Choreographer Barwren Tavaziva. Along with the audience, I was blown away by Barwren’s eloquent use of dance to communicate such an intense yet profoundly conscious message about trauma. Often the experience of trauma is challenging to put into words.
IZINDAVA is an invoking piece that explores politics, trauma and a sense of injustice that not only relates to postcolonial Zimbabwe but poignantly speaks towards the present unsettled feeling of race and culture in today’s society. In what was clearly a very personal piece, Tavaziva powerfully translates the emotional experience of inner conflict, which is central to these themes, into creative expression. I can only be described his work as giving voice to an oppressive internal experience of fear and trauma.
As a dance movement psychotherapist, my understanding of both trauma and fear is it’s experienced at the level of the body. Along with the consensus of neuroscience research, as quoted by Judith Rustin (2013) ‘emotions and feelings are not only “felt experiences” but bodily based experiences that exist prior to any conscious awareness of them’. Often trauma/fear can be hard to put into words because it disrupts memory, and as we do our best to survive our experiences, it is often silenced within us.
Earlier this year, I attended a course called ‘Race, Trauma and The Body’ facilitated by Director and Integrative Arts psychotherapist Eugene Ellis of the Black and Asian Therapist network (BAATN). Eugene explained how race-related trauma situations can consciously and unconsciously hijack our ability to find our voice, can paralyse our ability to think and feel our emotions, and hinder the development of mindful awareness and compassion.
The beauty of Bawren’s IZINDAVA is witnessing how he utilises dance to express himself and recreate from his lived experience. I sense this is healing work for him. By using his movement as language, he has communicated what he says “can no longer be silent”. Through IZINDAVA, which translates as ‘news’ in the Zimbabwean language Ndebele, Bawren shares his experience and wisdom gained from the past to send a message of compassion to the present.
Aesthetically, I found the earthy qualities of the dance compelling to watch. It’s quite profound to see the physical and emotional strength as well as individuality displayed through the dancers. It speaks to overcoming adversity, finding resilience and our ability to adapt creatively to what our lives require in our own way.
In movement terms, there is something Bawren has perfectly married that defies usual dance and movement repertoire for me. The use of levity in the body that comes with ballet and the grounded sense of gravity in African dance is entirely in balance and harmony within Bawren’s choreographic synthesis. Effortless in force is the only way I can describe it. IZINDAVA highlights the redemptive power of dance, not only for the choreographer and dancer but in the way it speaks to us as an audience. This performance is an experience. It’s emotional. It’s soul soothing. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think, (you can add comments below). Just expect to be moved.
Next date is November 17th at the Pegasus Theatre, Oxford. Click here for the rest of their tour dates. If you are in London, do not despair! I’ve been told there will be another London performance in March 2018. I will keep you posted here.
– Natasha Sackey
Rustin, J (2003), Infant Research & Neuroscience at work in Psychotherapy. 1st ed. W.W.Norton & Company, Inc. pp 13-14