A new dance company birthed its first production at the Theatre Guild on April 23. ‘This is Guyana’, staged by the Free Souls Dance Theatre Company under the direction of Kijana Lewis, brought new energy to the Guyanese dance landscape. Guyana has not seen such a quality dance production in a long time and Free Souls’ ‘This is Guyana’ was quite refreshing.
The plot, with its four segments gave great insight into the true story of Guyana, shedding light on its political situation, its culture, its diversity, its joy and its struggles. The first segment was titled after the production itself and began with an Adam and Eve piece which depicted the birth of Guyana. This earthy and in some parts sensual duet set the scene for the rest of the production. The segment continued with pieces that displayed the electing of a new president, patriotism, the conflict of an interracial romance and eventually unity. The segment ended with a playful performance to Gavin Mendonca’s rendition of the folk song “Bamboo Fya” and his own composition “Play Outside”. All the issues represented in the segment seemed to be resolved in this light-hearted piece.
The next two segments dealt with the issues of suicide, mental health and domestic violence. While the suicide segment ended with an upbeat piece called ‘Choose Life,’ the segments seemed more focused on portraying the issues than offering solutions. While this could viewed as a flaw, the raw portrayal of these issues resonated well with the audience. The dancers connected with the emotions of the songs and made the stories very believable.
The last segment had a sort of in-your-face quality that helped to bring the realities of prostitution, homosexuality and discrimination to the audience. Through dance, it told the story of a young boy who was put out of his home for displaying feminine behaviour. It took the audience through his journey of ending up on the streets, turning to prostitution and having to face discrimination. It was everything you would expect from a segment titled, ‘Whores Gotta Live’. It presented this taboo topic so realistically that, in spite of the humorous parts, the audience was able to empathize with the characters.
Each dance in each segment fit snugly into one huge relatable story. The production pushed boundaries and delved into issues not usually presented by dance with such undisguised passion that it commanded the audience’s attention.
The show was an eclectic mix of genres, body types, expressions and tastes that made the audience free their own souls and left them wanting more. ‘This is Guyana’ succeeded in telling the true Guyanese story.