Botis Seva‘s ‘InNoForm’ is an enigmatic and energy charged display of the London choreographer’s work, and a political statement about urban life, race and social status in modern Britain. Debuting as part of the Wildcard dance demonstration works held at Sadler’s Wells, the tone of the show is already pre-set before you’ve even taken your seats, with ‘pre-show activity’ held in an adjoining theatre space. We are given headphones through which classical music plays, and led into a darkened room, where a young girl, clearly in turmoil, slithers and slides around the murky space, scribbling incoherent babble onto a bed in front of her, and interacting with a young boy, seemingly tied to a chair in the corner of the room. A broken down television flickers in the corner, and the image of a well-to-do gentleman is projected onto the wall. What could the message of this whole initial prelude be? In my opinion, it can be whatever we wanted it to mean – art has no direct interpretation, no right or wrong – but the goal of the segment is clear – to warm up the minds of those in the audience, prepare us for an evening of questions and to perhaps engage with activity we aren’t necessarily familiar with.
We are drawn into Seva’s ideologies from the opening act, where five athletic dancers set the tone of the first half with eerie movement performed in half darkness, backs turned to the audience. Immediately we are enticed, yet set on edge. Every muscle in their backs is clearly visible, writhing and popping. Seva himself has links with Avant Garde, Boy Blue Entertainment and the Breakin’ Convention, the influence of all of which is felt throughout the performance. Who we are, where is our place in society and questions of race and equality are all subject matter which is remarkably portrayed, despite the first half being performed completely wordless. Nevertheless, our dancers communicate with us remarkably – part krump, part hip-hop and even some contemporary influences are portrayed as they stomp their message out through their feet, guttural cries from the dancers echoing around the theatre to accompany it. Primal, aboriginal, aggressively charged. It’s worth nothing here the dancers’ sheer energy and pure stamina; a 20-minute segment, performed at high energy and full-out, and not once did any of their dynamics dip.
A comedic tae-kwon-do inspired section between a pair of performers was a highlight – without uttering a single word, they portrayed a comedic segment which had us as an audience genuinely laughing. When your audience is truly feeling something, despite the lack of verbal communication, you know as a performer you’ve done something right.
The first half ends with an unusual segment where the spotlight is turned on the audience; with the stage in total darkness, a spotlight randomly picks out faces from the audience whilst a voice-over encourages us to ask ‘who are we… as people…? Our unwitting volunteers were clearly slightly uncomfortable with this situation, the premise of the idea was well executed. It allowed us to go into the interval feeling incredibly self-aware: the spotlight had literally been turned on us.
The second half of the work took a different turn entirely – comedic monologues, portrayals of ‘modern Britain’ and a football hooligan scene were real stand-outs. The group of performers were all extremely charismatic, clearly passionate about the contemporary themes Seva has encouraged them to grapple with. Bursting around the auditorium and physically approaching random members of the audience, once again the rollercoaster of InNoForm took a dramatic twist as the mood changed entirely.
How does this make us feel? I wondered, as a ‘hoodie’ approached me, grabbing my hand, uttering ‘hello beautiful! you look gorgeous! If I didn’t have a girlfriend…’ Is this a direct reaction to what may typically happen on the London streets daily, I thought? If in everyday life we are approached by a ‘hoodie,’ many of us may cast our eyes a different way and walk in the other direction. I felt as though in this case, they were attempting to show a different side to the inner-city London youth of today, all the while challenging stereotypes too – I felt myself toying with this idea, questioning it, which is exactly what the intention surely was.
The entire execution of InNoForm did just that – it challenged stereotypes, as well as made us laugh, made us uncomfortable, made us reflect. Seva’s aim is clearly to highlight issues of equality and race through his extremely talented gift as a choreographer and eye as a director. It’s wonderful and refreshing to see such powerful work being produced by somebody so young, and passionate about urban trials and tribulations. Wonderfully executed and passionately delivered, this was a stand-out segment of the Wildcard demonstration evenings which Sadler’s Wells supports.
Botis Seva is certainly one to watch.
Review by Louise Czupich
InNoForm challenges the social and political forces that structure young people’s lives in Britain today. Seva also invites the audience to question the commercialised brand of hip hop culture we have become accustomed to today, proposing a more thought-provoking and socially engaged perspective and reminding audiences that hip hop’s roots lie in the quest for justice and truth.
Wild Card – Botis Seva – Trailer (Sadler’s Wells)
Botis Seva said: “The commercialised culture in which we live today means that there is often little freedom for people to think. I want people to break out of their boxes and be free to see things from a different perspective. A lot of people who think they know what hip hop is might be surprised by what they see in my show.”
A Londoner born and bred, Botis Seva has made performance pieces across theatre, film and local community work with his company Far From The Norm since 2010. At the age of 23, he is one of the youngest ever guests of Wild Card. Seva has performed at various international showcases including Breakin’ Convention. He is currently mentored by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter.
Last Updated Sunday 27th September 2015