Freak Show of Dance Exposes Layers of Exibitionism

Dancer and choreographer Annabel Guérédrat, a native of the Caribbean island of Martinique, creates dance works that fuse her childhood background in dance with her experiences as professor of literature in Paris and as a Butoh dancer. Quite a combination. Deeply ritualistic, her work is a performance study investigating socio-political and feminist themes. The Miami arts institution Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator presents her solo dance work, A Freak Show for S, on Friday for MADE at the Citadel, along with a breakfast salon at the Betsy Hotel South Beach in the morning.

The impetus for A Freak Show For S began during a 2010 residency in Cuba. “I was in a workshop and we were asked to close our eyes, and remember our oldest souvenir that we had in our memory even if it’s good or bad.

“After, he said open your eyes and write all you want, so I began to write, like automatic writing. I wrote it in French, and I decided to perform it in other languages, to see how that would reveal other ways of movement and memory inside my own body,” Guérédrat explains of how the idea for the work came about.

While exploring her own body and language as the piece developed, she also read the history of Sarah Baartman, the South African black woman exhibited in 19th-century European circuses as the Hottentot Venus, prized and “displayed” for her posterior. “I was so shocked by this woman who was humiliated, how she was exhibited as an animal because she was different from the others. I was so shocked by the inhumanity of this story that I decided to combine my own history with the history of Sarah Baartman,” Guérédrat says. Fusing her personal story with that of Baartman proved an inspired choice that resonated deeply for her personally, as well in unique ways with audiences around the word. “When I began to perform the piece, each person who saw this performance had a specific interpretation. In Montreal I am considered a very exotic performer. In Morocco, I was more considered as a djinn [spirits in Arabian mythology], with a spirit that enters my body in a ritualistic way, and leaving my body at the end of the performance. I began to understand that it’s not only about Sarah Baartman; it can be all the women of my family on a trans-generational way, a freak show for all the woman all over the world.”

These different interpretations are not accidental, as Guérédrat seems to revel in the dichotomy of her willingness to perform and show her body and Baartman’s forced exhibition. The performance builds slowly as Guérédrat stalks the stage in red stilettos, and a fur jacket. Powerful and self-possessed, she seems to taunt the audience with her movements and vocalizations, before a literal stripping down of both the costume and movement create a voyeuristic intimacy.

“It’s not dance, it’s not visual art, it’s not a concert, but I use my body to exhibit as a visual body, an artistic body, a vocal body and a dance body,” she explains of the dualities that are in the work. “At the same time, I’m a woman, but I’ve got some kind of man attitude. … I’m too black to be white and too white to be black. It’s a question of all these identities, and I can talk about all of these identities in a Freak Show for S.” Much of the performance is focused on the relationship between her and the audience, and the energy that is transmitted between them. “I have no specific goals, for me it’s always an amazing adventure. I cannot anticipate the reaction of the audience, I can just relax myself and release sufficiently to really be open.

“And it is like, I want to be connected to the soul of the person who will be there, but without any pretension, sort of like a ritual.”'

– Rebekah Lanae Lengel, 

A Freak Show for S with Annabel Guérédrat for the Breakfast Arts Salon on Friday at 9:30 a.m., The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; free with RSVP; or 305-760-6902.

A Freak Show for S on Friday, 8 p.m. at MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami; tickets: $10 plus a drink; 786-646-6464.
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