Choreographer Alida Dors opens a refreshing window to supernatural, female powers from the winti faith ★★★☆☆

Primisi by Alida Dors by Theater Rotterdam. From left to right Anaiah Raelyn Carney, Deion Simon, Liza Panjoel and Fiona Dekkers.Image Mark Bolk

Whoops, cheers, claps. A packed Theater Rotterdam with an overwhelmingly diverse audience spontaneously surrenders to the sweet smell of the winti ritual that marks the start of the dance concert. Primisi marks. Dancer and ceremony specialist Dayna Martinez Morales cleans stage, audience and performers by sprinkling scented water and sprinkling white powder everywhere. For example, she asks permission (‘premisi’ in Sranantongo) from ancestors for this ritualistic festival (or ‘prisiri’). Choreographer, sociologist and artistic director Alida Dors, who at the beginning of this season called for more movement and mentorship in the cultural sector and more openness to other voices, styles and stories, wants to Dance Chronicleas she calls her performances, no longer sharing pain and frustration, but a positive desire to be visible and the healing power of self-love.

By this she does not mean the commercially exploited, positive self-esteem that does so well on social media, she emphasizes in an extensive explanation, but a collectively cherished, political act of self-care. ‘Love awakens the animal and humanizes the hard-hearted’, sings vocalist Youandi Albertzoon in difficult to understand English. ‘Returning to the first home, the first love’, is how Albertzoon quotes snatches of poetry from the black American professor, activist and feminist bell hooks (alias Gloria Jean Watkins).

It takes quite a bit of puzzling to figure out those intentions. The chain of dance solos and tribal scenes does not easily reveal its meaning. They are welded together too conspicuously for that and certain choices raise too many questions. Why do the four musicians, masked with curls of beard, remain shrouded in twilight, behind a mesh wall, while they pump all movement glowingly with their conjuring drums, motor growls and throbbing guitars? The singer also remains minimally featured.

The mountain of clothing that is peeled off in layers illustrates how the dancers get rid of imposed patterns and habits. Back to themselves, they all get a chance to break out of the jungle of yellow ropes and let loose in their familiar dance style. Anaiah Raelyn Carney gives the audience a defiant, glamorous look as she twerks her muscular buttocks and thrusts her pelvis until she drops ‘dead’. Liza Panjoel carries her body as Mowgli on her back back to the pack.

Deion Simon becomes after one vogue battle with Carney suspended in ropes while the women ceremoniously strip him of pasted layers of skin. Then he runs in circles while the vocalist sings and wonders ‘Why run from the pain?’. There is crawling and boxing with wildly twisting arms. They krump, beat, rock, flutter and blow. They swing their feet shoulder to shoulder, facing the shadowy masked musicians. As a caring mother goddess, Morales continues to sprinkle lovingly with powder.

With this attempt to make self-love tangible collectively and equally, Dors opens a refreshing window to supernatural, female powers from the Winti faith, but also raises many barriers for those who are not familiar with it. That’s how she likes it Primisi an exclusive kind of inclusion. That is allowed, of course, but requires a lot of information leaflets. And a sturdier thread.




By Theater Rotterdam. Choreography Alida Dors. Dance Anaiah Raelyn Carney, Dayna Martinez Morales, Deion Simon, Fiona Dekkers, Liza Panjoel and Vainergill Thurnim. Vocal Youandi Albertzoon. Music Simone Giacomini (musical director), Vicente Pino (guitar), Raphael Vanoli (bass guitar) and Gerri Jäger (percussion).

11/11, Theater Rotterdam. Tour through 12/1.