From the shadows, two figures emerge from opposite ends of the stage. Dancers William Camilo Perlaza Micolta and Sandra Vanesa Murillo Mosquera tiptoe towards each other while sounds of running water and birds chirping play in the background. Dressed in all brown, they join hands at the center of the stage and approach the crowd, all while keeping the same steady pace.
Suddenly, Micolta and Mosquera split apart swiftly as the live drums burst into a rapid tempo and both dancers perform a fast-paced sequence of grand arm movements, large jumps and fast turns around each other. The stark contrast between the slow tiptoe and the swift movements takes the audience by surprise, making it clear that the performance we are about to witness is going to be electric, elegant and emotional.
On Feb. 26, the Colombian dance company Sankofa Danzafro performed “Accommodating Lie” at the Boch Center’s Shubert Theater. It was a performance unlike any I have ever seen before.
With only eight performers in the entire company, the performance sought to explain the complicated historical culture of Afro-Colombians. The dramatic entrance of the first soloist, Yndira Perea Cuesta, was incredibly symbolic of this struggle.
Dressed in all white, Cuesta was first seen behind the backdrop of African straw, struggling to walk onto the stage. As she inched closer towards the spotlight, it became apparent that Cuesta’s hands were bound by rope, held by two people behind her. She attempted to resist capture by trying to free her hands from the rope, but to no avail. The emotionless expressions of her captors juxtaposes the panicked expression on her face.
The hour long performance included many incredibly powerful moments. Variations in tempo and intensity of the music kept the audience on their toes. The style of movement and set pieces were equally engaging.
In the fourth act of the show, five of the eight performers emerged from behind in a horizontal line spanning the length of the stage.
Off in the distance we heard a voice for the first time throughout the entire performance. It sounded like an auctioneer listing off the performers in front of us like the slave auctions that took place in many countries under European imperialist control.
Many audience members had solemn expressions on their faces while watching the dramatic interpretation of hundreds of years of suffering. Others looked shocked. Sankofa Danzafro provided a perspective on colonization, the transatlantic slave trade and the mistreatment of Afro-Colombians that most Americans would otherwise never have been able to see.
As the last act started the entire company came onto the stage and the auctioneer’s voice from before could be heard again. All the performers stood expressionless, as their respective prices became higher and higher. Suddenly, the line split apart and in smaller groups of two, the company performed the most fast-paced and grand act yet.
The tempo of the drums matched the speed of the performers as they utilized the entire stage for their gravity-defying performances. Gradually the drums started to subside, the movements become slower and all eight performers return back to the line. The price became higher, until it settled on three million pesos. The auctioneer said “going once, going twice” and before he could say “sold,” the stage cuts to black. The show concluded.
For almost five minutes the audience gave a standing ovation. Some were wiping away tears, while others expressed amazement.
I was left speechless. “Accommodating Lie” was an incredible work of art that achieved everything it set out to — it brought attention to the narrative of the Afro-Colombian struggle and provided a personalized insight into the mistreatment of Africans everywhere.