Choreography and interpretation by Kettly Noel and Nelisiwe Xaba
Featuring Kettly Noel and Nelisiwe Xaba
Under the Radar Festival
The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
production web site:

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 8, 2011

A dance / theatre piece separated into a series of scenarios, involving either or both of the two creator-performers Kettly Noel and Nelisiwe Xaba.  Primarily filled with bold blocks of color on bodies, varying footgear, the occasional use of puppets, sound design that includes favorite ballad singers such as Blossom Dearie‘s “Satin Doll”, simple white light, and masterfully managed liquid.  A sensation in sights and sounds.

Two young women with lithe dancer tiny bodies and bodacious personalities. In face and personality each evokes other performing women for me: one Eartha Kitt and one Angela Bassett, both gorgeous.

Language is used abundantly in the first piece, and literally and figuratively trips up the dancer after we have watched her decide upon her clothes for the day and she concludes about many life decisions: “I haven’t decided yet but at least I’ve decided what to wear.”  The sequence depicted in the image above captures this same dancer with a doll-sized puppet she swings, twirls, loops, and gloriously lives with through a beautiful sequence.  A later sequence involves both women, one atop dancing and one below commenting and correcting — “We’re doing modern dance / we’re doing contemporary dance.”  And we in the audience feel the words become extraneous and thrill to the passing images and fluid movements of our women.  Friends?  Lovers? Professional partners?  We aren’t given all the details of the dancing characters’ lives but we feel the actions.  The final sequence has the women pared down to the simplest costumes of all, black bathing suits, atop the same table now moved mid-stage center, and white-lit engagement with fluid-filled white rubber gloves.  The entire production features quite a stunning sequence of stage images, and, in the end, is surprisingly moving.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 12, 2011)

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