Further thoughts on In the Mood for Frankie

Ng Yi-Sheng

September 4, 2016

My friend Vani just took umbrage with my review for In the Mood for Frankie, mainly because it wasn't effusive enough in its praise. "I wish I had come on opening night; then I would have come every night to watch," she said.

For the record, I did like it, but it was hard for me to explain why I did. I identified with what I saw as a spirit of sad, lonely, childlike play. And in doing so, I forgot to note that it is technically difficult to have that intensity of introversion; that it is plain exhausting to dance the entire show on their toes, as they did.

Faux ballerinas. True selves. Neither one is easy.

Vani saw far more than that, though. She points out that Trajal Harrell's work is deeply rooted in the African American experience: she therefore saw a commemoration of the slave trade, bodies put on display but faces downcast, on a runway turned via dolorosa. She saw mock-voodoo rituals in the trance states and pouring of libations—which may well be true, given that was part of the African American modernist oeuvre of choreographer Katherine Dunham, whom Harrell claims as one of his great inspirations in this work.

Katherine Dunham, Tropical Revue, 1943
[Source]

She also can't believe I said their bodies weren't aestheticised: she said she could look at their bodies forever; and anyway didn't I enjoy the dancing Down's Syndrome bodies of Disabled Theatre?

I wasn't gonna win this argument, so I just chose to walk away and blog.

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  • 2016