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Akeim Toussaint Buck: Radical Visions – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Curator: Akeim Toussaint Buck

The first Sadler’s Wells Wild Card of the year is curated by British-Jamaican choreographer, dancer and filmmaker Akeim Toussaint Buck. Featuring two live dances, a short film, a house band and spoken word, it’s a varied and, at times, thrilling evening.

The thrills are provided by FUBUNATION in a piece called Black Is…, choreographed by Rhys Dennis (who also dances) and Waddah Sinada. Four dancers pulsate to Sam Nunez’s electronic score, and for 30 minutes they move across every inch of the Lilian Baylis Studio, almost brushing against the front row of the audience. Most of the time they move as one, synchronising their movements, but at others they push at pull at each other, each gesture gentle and intimate.

A few times, one of the dancers will break away from the rest to reveal some individuality before re-joining the group. However, none of them can escape the jig-like march that returns like a refrain or a punishment. Black is… is simultaneously bleak and liberating and is reminiscent of Sharon Eyal’s Killer Pig, another endurance dance.

Sandwiching this staggering work is a short piece by dancer Alethia Antonia and a film by Buck. In Inscribed in “Me”, Antonia is stuck to a box. She can’t release her foot from its surface, and when she finally does manage to somersault it free she finds that her hand is stuck instead. Later, her relationship with the box appears to change. Lasting little more than 20 minutes, Inscribed in “Me” is beautiful, elegant and fragile, especially when she sings a song composed by Buck and Mikel Ameen.

The film Displaced is based on Buck’s one-man show Windows of Displacement, and they both combine dance and spoken word. Stunningly shot and co-directed with Ashley Karrell, Displaced is a treatise on the legacy of slavery. Explaining how the wealth of Britain relied on the work of others, Buck goes on to tell his own story and his journey from Jamaica to England. Despite his ancestors’ enforced contribution to the Empire’s riches, Buck still had to pay to sit the citizen test.

The best sections of the 40-minute film are those when he returns to his hometown of Leeds to dance in barbershops or laundrettes. Shirtless with tribal markings in white paint on his torso, Buck brings back the past into the present. In some shots, however, a white handprint covers his face, suggesting that he will never be entirely free from history. Displaced is a testament to resilience, community and survival.

The Wild Card series is an excellent way of discovering the performers and creatives of the future. But in the case of all involved tonight, especially, FUBUNATION, that future is very close indeed.

Runs until 21 January 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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