Monday, November 28, 2011
Dance review: “A Prayer To End Human Trafficking” by Votum Dance Company
Tackling a tough topic, we were left wanting more.
The arts have always been a medium for expressing the existence of social injustice, and modern dance is no exception. At a recent performance by Dallas-Fort Worth group Votum Dance Company, choreographer Cindy Kumer tackled the topic of human trafficking at Courtyard Theatre of Plano.
One of the largest and complicated of the hidden crimes facing the world, human trafficking is rarely understood. It occurs in numerous ways that go unseen and largely unknown by many in the United States. People are bought and sold as livestock for unspeakable reasons that involve forced labor and prostitution. We wondered if such a diverse and complex issue can be effectively translated into modern dance.
Kumer addresses this issue from a Christian standpoint by promoting the power of prayer. Her piece “The Prayer to End Human Trafficking” is very much that, and little else. While modern dance is often open for interpretation, there was very little in this work that could be interpreted as having anything to do with this horrifying crime.
A lone act was the only moment when human trafficking itself was addressed. A woman was pulled from a cage for no established reason and then mildly abused; afterwards, she was returned to the cage only to escape. The vast majority of the ballet did not quite express the pain and tragedy of forced prostitution, and it caused this singular scene to become a token moment of bold realism during the ballet.
Kumer’s message is sensible: Her ballet is a prayer to end human trafficking, but that is its only message. Secular members may find it difficult to accept. With such a sensitive, invisible issue, Kumer brings it to light with one hand but begs ignorance with the other. Her message, and the message of the company, is that prayer can and does solve the problem, and a male speaker, emotionally charged to the point of tears, begged god to end human trafficking. Absent were solutions that could bring immediate, mortal intervention to the issue.
The expectation of interpretive, socially charged dance primes an audience into thinking they will witness a ballet charged with evocative imagery. The reality is that when that expectation fades, the performance lacked the passion and purpose expected.
“A Prayer to End Human Trafficking” needed context, and if there were a more subtle message to the ballet, it was lost in the religious message.
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