Paying Full Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain



Get a front row seat to the inner workings of contemporary dance this afternoon with a special presentation featuring visiting choreographer Kwesi Johnson. Artistic director of the UK-based Kompany Malakhi, Johnson has been in town and working with performers from Sarasota Contemporary Dance for the last week, creating a new piece that will debut tonight at SCD’s special event, Behind the Curtain with Kwesi Johnson.

Working with seven dancers from SCD, the resulting performance is an exploration of the myriad influences that inspire each, as well as tribute to the positive forces who have all helped along the way. “It’s an acknowledgement,” Johnson sums up, “of those people who have allowed them to be the people they are.” For such a personal project, Johnson adopted what he refers to as a director’s role, as opposed to a choreographer, per se—providing guidance and helping to fine-tune performance, but not dictating every movement from conception to conclusion. “I give stimulus,” he says, “they create, I shape.”

Such creative freedom and collaboration also served to help the group create a 10-minute performance from the scant time they had together since Johnson’s arrival. And Johnson brooks no shortcuts or filler—meaning zero repetition, all progression, no matter how beautiful the moment was the first time. He makes the comparison to theater or film: “Would somebody say the same line twice?” he says. “If I’m repeating something, there’s a reason.” Instead, through the performance, the audience will be treated to high-energy moments of chaos, grounded meditations and everything in between. “It’s not a storyline,” Johnson cautions, “but it has themes.”

An international choreographer whose work has taken him as far afield as Vietnam and South Africa, Johnson’s pioneering approach and movement vocabulary encompasses influences as varied as the globe he trots. Under Johnson’s direction, hip hop theater meets contemporary dance meets physical theater meets UK Jazz dance and more—and all coming to Sarasota for Behind the Curtain. “You’ll see all of those elements in it,” he says, but coming out the other side something altogether its own.

Behind the Curtain with Kwesi Johnson happens today, June 22, at 3pm at Sarasota Contemporary Dance. Tickets are $10.

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