Sadler’s Wells’ Digital Stage and Breakin’ Convention have released Our Bodies Back, a riveting new dance film that speaks out against anti-Black racism and honours the lived experiences of Black women past and present. The film is made in collaboration with Jonzi D Projects and BCTV, and stages poet and performance artist jessica Care moore‘s moving poem We Want Our Bodies Back.
Created during lockdown and filmed remotely, the film is helmed by Breakin’ Convention Artistic Director and Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Jonzi D. It was choreographed and performed around the world to highlight the ubiquity of anti-Black racism by Axelle ‘Ebony’ Munezero in Montréal, Canada; Bolegue Manuela (b-girl Manuela) in Hanover, Germany; and Nafisah Baba in London, UK.
moore narrates the film herself with soundscape design from Saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch, and the film is an empowering ode to Black womanhood; affirming experiences of pain and trauma as well as pride, power and beauty as lived by generations of Black women all over the world. moore said of the project:
“This exquisite collaboration has moved me to tears more than once. I am honoured to see my poem come to life through the bodies of genius woman & this multi-disciplinary, visionary team of artists. Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor…we embody these women, we tell their stories”.
Director Jonzi D added: “This poem is a demand. For justice, for equality, for respect, for Our Bodies Back. The whole team were so moved by jessica’s incisive lyrics and intense delivery, we had the perfect blueprint for this film. The dancers responded with honesty, grace and power”.
Alongside the release of the film is a making-of documentary, which can be viewed below. In the documentary, the dancers explain how moore’s poem affected them and how they sought to adapt their rhythms to her words, while Kinch eloquently explains his approach to creating the music for the film:
“My starting point for creating the music for this project was very much jessica’s text. It’s not only very rich but her delivery and the pacing of it is relentless, so I wanted to convey that sense of relentlessness, of not being given a pause, not being given a rest, and feeling like your ears aren’t being given back to you for quite a time.
I wanted to create lots of layers and to have some specific references to words within the poem but also to leave people feeling dizzied and disoriented, as I think is the effect of racism in lots of ways”.
Sadler’s Wells is a world-leading dance organisation, committed to producing, commissioning and presenting new works and to bringing the best domestic and international dance to UK and worldwide audiences.
Under the Artistic Directorship of Alistair Spalding, the theatre’s acclaimed year-round programme spans dance of every kind, from contemporary to flamenco, Bollywood to ballet, salsa to street dance and tango to tap.
Audiences of over half a million come to Sadler’s Wells’ three London theatres each year, with many more enjoying its touring productions at venues across the UK and around the world and accessing its content through its Digital Stage which, since March, has offered online programme of performances and workshops for people to watch at home, and has accumulated over 2.7 million video views globally.
Breakin’ Convention represents the origins and evolution of hip hop culture from around the world and around the corner. It is world-renowned for hip hop dance theatre. Through its international festivals and professional development programme, Breakin’ Convention is at the vanguard of the global development of hip hop theatre artists.
More information about Sadler’s Wells’ Digital Stage programme can be found on its website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2020/digital-stage.
Judging by its early success, Our Bodies Back has the chance to be a catalyst for even bigger things at Sadler’s Wells. Not only that, but hopefully it can bring more people on board for fight against racial inequality and specifically anti-Black racism. As dancer Nasifah Baba says in the making-of documentary:
“I really felt the pain of [the poem]. Really. Like, you can’t read that and not feel the pain, whoever you are”.