Rarely does a dance piece get so close to you – physically and emotionally. Jamaican choreographer Zwoisy Mears-Clarke’s Worn and Felt is an interactive performance that transposes the invisible nature of racism into non-visual dance. An intimate audience of just 20 guests are led in groups by the five performers into a dimly-lit room, where they are asked to close their eyes and place their hands on their respective performer’s body – a body which loses its humanness as it moves into the centre of this dark space, squirming and sobbing as it transforms into a wormlike creature. In doing so, the audience is thrust into a shapeless realm of pure emotion, an intense atmosphere of fear, confusion and empathy which powerfully conveys the pervasive yet often invisible nature of everyday discrimination.
Mears-Clarke does pack a wide range of emotions into a short space of time, however. Seemingly in order to create a sense of revelation and healing among the audience, the performers transcend fear, shame and rage as they segue into joy and gratitude within just 45 minutes. Although influenced by the black feminist theory of writers like Audre Lorde and May Ayim, which sees the process of rage and fear itself as empowering, Mears-Clarke becomes a little too idealistic towards the end of Worn and Felt. The performance is followed by a well-meaning, but somewhat cringy tea-talk, in which everybody can open up and share their feelings. It’s a stark contrast to the anonymised darkroom touching that directly preceded it. Nevertheless, the audience and ensemble leave with a sense of empowerment.
Worn and Felt, May 23-26, 18:30 and 21:30, Sophiensæle