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Flash Review 2, 5-10: Spirit Dance
Christa, Reid & Co. Honor the Spirits

By Alicia Mosier
Copyright 2001 Alicia Mosier

When I heard the words "Vernon Reid" and "peanut soup" in a description of Gabri Christa's "Yeye: The Winti Project," I just couldn't say no. Stepping into P.S. 122 last week, the incredibly diverse audience was greeted with steaming bowls of soup (courtesy of the Consulate General of the Netherlands) and the vision of singer D.K. Dyson improvising with a 2-year-old boy whose mother had brought him up to take a look at Dyson's elaborate African costume, and that of the amazing tabla player Suphala. Reid, legendary leader of the group Living Colour, kept a low profile at the beginning, but as the evening went on it was his original score, a rich stew of Caribbean, rock, and jazz influences, that drove the vigorous mood in the house.

"The Winti Project" is Christa's exploration of her Dutch Caribbean roots. "Yeye" (the Surinamese word for spirit) is the first part of the project, a dance-party celebration of spirits and ancestors that's part of the Winti religion of Surinam. To the sounds of Dyson's shrieks and moans, seven women (Christa, Alysia Ramos, Amy Lee, Chera Mack, Evann Siebens, Jane Penn, and Nya Bowman) in Akiko Sato's orange and red costumes shared their spirits in shuddering embraces. They began lined up on a bench with their backs to the audience, as if gathering energy from the whole world. Christa led off with a concentrated solo that may have been improvised; bent low to the ground, she kicked her feet and raised one finger to the sky in a gesture of listening and acknowledgment. The other women did slow promenades around P.S. 122's white pillars, then organized into circles, diagonals, and parallel lines that created an orderly backdrop for spinning tangles of duets, in which both the strength of Christa's idea and the energy of the individual dancers emerged. The pace lingered around these smaller, more focused dances, in which each woman came out of the anonymous group and showed us all the desires and joys of, perhaps, the families they left behind in another world.

"Yeye" was a very long dance, and its composition wasn't tight enough to bring it to the joyous climax it seemed to want to get to (and that everyone was longing for). But the spirit of the spirits Christa wanted to honor came through strongly in those duets and in several solos, especially that of the piquant, elegant Lee, who kissed her own hand and flapped her hands at the sky as if eating bread from Heaven. My favorite solo, though, was another one by Christa, which she performed while the others sat quietly at the back of the stage. She chugged slowly around one of the columns, weighting her body so that it looked like an elderly woman's; then, with her black hair flying and her serene face glowing, she arched back and fell to her knees in an orgasmic spasm, twitching for a while on her side, before rejoining the others in flashes of arms and legs across the stage, vertiginous tumbles, and wide smiles all around. Swift, mighty, compassionate, and backed up by Vernon Reid: isn't that how you'd like your spirit to be someday?

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