CORRESPONDANCES is a series of episodes depicting topics of interest ranging between political and social satire mixed with contemplations on being a woman shared between Noel and Xaba. With opening sound track stating—“I don’t want to go to work today rather stay home and play…” Xaba speaks to the audience while moving in high heels explaining her morning ritual. The descriptions reveal what most women do-checking if eyes need cucumbers and several mirrors in bathroom that allow several views of face, back of head and torso. Noel enters from the back of the house carrying a suitcase. As she enters she kisses several audience members-men and women-before entering the stage space. Protagonist and antagonist meet and admire each other; they share soft caresses and dance together. This foreplay, bumping each other hip, buttocks and other body flank areas and escalates to aggression. The end result causes Xaba to scream out in pain.
The work, visceral and edgy, is a series of episodes linked together by moments to change shoes and/or garment. At one point Noel performs an intricate duet with a white ceramic doll to the Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Jonny Mercer’s standard Satin Doll sang by Jill Scott. As Noel manipulates it the doll walks in high heels, spins ah la arabesque, is carried in the arch of Noel’s high heel as Noel lies prone and rolls over her back gently as if carrying a human partner. A monologue follows this wonderful duet as Noel proclaims she is a great and powerful woman while denouncing, several negatives traits with an emphatic “no”. Noel also discusses the power of money in Africa and the world saying you can buy anything with enough money—you can buy gold, diamonds, oil and children; even the African continent. Noel’s rant ends with burps that seem to emphasize the bestiality she has witnessed in her circumstance given the politics discussed in her speech. The burps also seem to portend a change in character; direction of the work which takes a more sensual slant with performance becoming less parody and more introspective.
Noel’s hand and arm gestures wrap around her neck and wipe her mouth and her torso in turn. This sequence develops into a duet with Xaba becoming a fulcrum that Noel’s whole body wraps about and falls off of. Xaba steps over her and around and the sequence begins again. They tug and bump each other again and finally Xaba ends on the floor. Moving a table to downstage right the dancers perform a sequence of gestures on the table to the music of Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are made of This). The table gets moved several more times before they place it centre centre. Noel then performs her interpretation of ballet moves called out by Xaba. Noel mocks the ballet terms by giving an obtuse version with a sash of dolls tied around her hips. Eventually the dolls fall out and Noel tosses them around the room. White balloons filled with a white liquid substance are flown in over the performers who now bare foot wearing leotards. They drench themselves in the white substance, drink it and squirt it out of their mouths, slide across the floor and spin in it while a video image presents text of the monologues performed in English and French. The written correspondences between the women are also shown.
The work speaks of several realities and the desire for several ideals that these varied realities instigate. Taking a performative stance the work illustrates through movement and voice several issues regarding femininity, cultural finiteness, and political and social obfuscation. Everyone competes in every way with herself and with other female acquaintances on the street to achieve some ideal woman ness, some understanding of the predicament we all find ourselves in, for dance excellence, for social responsibility, or political astuteness. Noel and Xaba confront the contradictions of being a woman, an African woman, living in their respective countries, living in this globalised world at this particular time.
THEA NERISSA BARNES