Gabri Christa

May 3, 2001

Performance Space 122 (P.S. 122)
New York, New York

May 3?6, 2001

Reviewed by C.T. Goodman

Choreographer/dancer Gabri Christa sees the world from a unique perspective. She has described herself as “a member of a crossroads culture,” and admits that such identity brings with it a kind of multicultural baggage. A New Yorker since 1992, via Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Netherlands and her native Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean, Christa?s vibrant dance language has been shaped by global history, ideas, and culture.

Christa has choreographed and danced with companies she co-founded, Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and DanzAbierta; more recently, she performed with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Her choreography has been performed throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and New York. A Guggenheim fellowship afforded the opportunity to conduct research in her father?s native Suriname, the former South American former Dutch colony. That research helped her create Yeye, a sixty-minute piece that drew from all of her ethnic influences and was performed by her newest company, DanzAisa.

Collaborating with rock and world-music composers, musicians, and vocalists, and combining ethnic styles, historical traditions, and ancient and contemporary cultures, the choreographer created an action-packed experience full of indigenous movement, innovative couplings, and mystical sound. Tabla player Suphala and Christa?s husband, guitarist Vernon Reid of the 1980s rock group Living Colour, contributed a pre-recorded original score; Reid, inventive jazz vibraphonist Cecelia Smith, and extraordinary vocalist DK Dyson made live guest appearances, creating a freewheeling sound that was often as compelling as the dancers? precise movement.

The setting is a winti-pre, a dance party for the spirits and ancestors of the Suriname religion Winti (that country?s voudon). Yeye is the Surinamese word for spirit; in this piece, seven dancers pay homage to ancestors and to life. Alysia Ramos, Amy Lee, Chera Mack, Evann Siebens, Jane Penn, Nya Bowman, and Christa performed without a break, constantly onstage but with occasional downtime during other dancers? solos. Throughout the piece, the dancers circled the stage?hands clasped, hips swaying slightly, and small shuffle steps moving slow, fast, faster, propelling the piece. Solos, which took place center stage, were energetic, sometimes tightly choreographed, and other times seemingly improvised. There were unique pairings, with very small dancers lifting and spinning much larger ones, hoisting and throwing them to the floor, hugging, carrying, pushing, and leaning on them. Yeye is a sisterhood paying their respects to those gone before.

With so much movement on the stage and at such a high energy level, viewers weren’t sure where to focus their attention. There was no time to relax even as the performance ended in a blackout, because the dancers were still moving, airborne. The audience almost let out a collective sigh of exhaustion at the end.

Though it was exciting and intense, viewers might have enjoyed Yeye more if it were taken down a notch on the energy scale. A more traditional performance space might also have been helpful. The closeness of the P.S. 122 stage put the dancers within feet of the audience. With some distance, the audience could better view the entire stage and the performance space as a whole.