Performance Review: “Dismantling: Tactic 1”

Written By: kuwa jasiri Tyombe Indomela (this one/that one)
Feedback By: Elizabeth Cooper (she/her)

Photo by Robby Sweeny

We arrive at Joe Goode Annex, in Ohlone Territory, so called San Francisco, California the evening of January 6th. We ascend the staircase, shuffle through the lobby, into an blank theatre for FRESH Festival. The crowd ceases their multi-lingual chatter as the curators make house acknowledgements.

Setup for “ Dismantling: Tactic 1” begins in a flurry. The unwinding of masking tape fills the quiet spaces as a line appears on the floor, followed by many others. Performers emerge positioning themselves creatively along the back walls to be outlined in taupe tape. José Navarrete (he/him) of NAKA Dance Theater invites those who are able to the stage to witness the deconstruction of ‘privilege, supremacy, economics, and race’. I am both confused, and eager arriving on the striped stage without my pen, or paper. Music sparks, and nine able-bodied dancers (José Navarrete, Jose Abad, Cookie Harrist, Randy Reyes, Gabriel Christian, Amelia Uzategui Bonilla, Ronja Ver, Miriam Wolodarski, and Debby Kajiyama), diverse in ethnicity, and gender, glide onto the floor. Subtly the dance takes shape.  Life scenarios are spoken aloud then movement, forward or backward depends on their personal accessibility to each resource (such as education, organic food). I immediately recognize the activity from diversity trainings as a way to visibly witness our positions in this world. My heart grows heavy as the space between privileged, and marginalized grows wider.

Audience members on the stage, become part of and intertwined with the performance, nervously gathering their limbs to make space for the rapid movements ensuing. Realizing the performers are agile, and attentive to where we all are positioned, I remain poised in a loose posture with my shoes off, lingering close to me.

The mega phone bellows, I discern no tangible words as the audience pushes back against the walls in a single wave. I stay in the midst of the art, again confused. Wanting to do this review well, I make a plan in my mind to retreat back to my tiered seat to take notes. Abad (they/them) takes center stage speaking about the Amerikkkan Dream, and how some of us are only meant to hold up this reality for others in the form of our continuously undervalued labour. My gut curls. This is the role I am given.

The live art speeds up to distortion music – a frenzy of lifts, kicks, and contact improve styles arise. The building emanates thunderous sensations beneath me and more of the audience scoots toward the walls. My focus blurs, and I remember my current purpose, to write this review. Climbing up the side of the bleachers as to avoid disturbing the dismantling, I notice Miriam (she/her) cupping her pregnant body. Now back at my red plastic seat, I see my personal experiences in the faces, and reenactive movements of the artists.  The high energy keeps me engaged as the pain of living this life swells inside me.

Some dancers peel away, label, and reposition the tape lines on the floor, perhaps ushering in a new paradigm, while the other cast members engage in one-on-one intimate dialogues with the audience participants that are on the marley flooring. Debby (she/her) retreats to the second row of observer seats, taking a few breaths. I stare in wonder. The house lights brighten, and the conversations become more dynamic, almost audible from my fifth tier. My perch offers me full exposure to all the body language, air quotes, and light touch during these mid-show conversations. I am elated, and fascinated at the closeness created in what seems to be five minutes. I find myself longing for connection, as I am one of the few who needs to be in a chair.

The dancers circle up, and the lights overhead become spotlights. Abad begins telling their actual family story of arriving on Turtle Island. Then in mid sentence, another performer sparks up their ancestral migration story; one after the other heritage stories ripple through the group. The trauma of piecing together oneself echoes through the open space, and then Abad addresses the crowd, “…forced to return to a place we never been before. Home is… a longing, an emptiness within the body, is somewhere.” I breathe deep, as fuzzy transmission sounds send shocks to my soul… is this an attempt to communicate with Home?

Dancers attempt to fit themselves into each others masking-taped silhouettes. No one seems content, and they all meticulously unravel the suggestive “chalk” outlines. Gabriel (tHEy/tHIM) struggles, the stickiness seems to be consuming, and repealing tHIM in the same moment. THEy start writhing, tormented contortions, and angular movements intensify as the solo choreography forces us to examine the way our own bodies take up space. The imaginary curtain closes, and the audience lingers in emotional meditation. Applause erupts as we acknowledge what is now palpably dismantled.

To connect more with us:

kuwa jasiri Tyombe Indomela: Authentic Creations Publishing,
NAKA Dance Theater:
Chani Bockwinkel: Videographer
FRESH Festival:
Joe Goode Annex: