Dance reviews: Born To Protest | Traffic Light Cabaret

Born To Protest continues choreographer Joseph Toonga’s exploration of cultural identity, racial stigma and unconscious bias, writes Kelly Apter

Born to Protest PIC: Brian Hartley

Born To Protest, Queen’s Park, Glasgow ****

Traffic Light Cabaret, online ****

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We hear them before we see them. Laughter and shouting announcing the imminent arrival of a small gang. Sitting in the concrete amphitheatre of Glasgow’s Queen’s Park in broad daylight, all we’re feeling is anticipation at the show about to unfold. In other circumstances, however, would the five young Black people bursting into the space provoke a different emotion? “Do I make you nervous?” asks one of them to the silent crowd.

The follow-up to Joseph Toonga’s excellent 2020 work, Born To Manifest – also presented by Dance International Glasgow – Born To Protest continues the choreographer’s exploration of cultural identity, racial stigma and unconscious bias. Opening with highly energised, synchronised hip hop to a beat-heavy soundtrack, this new work gets the audience immediately onside. But once the feel-good acrobatics are over, Born To Protest takes on a whole different vibe. From the monkey chants to the proclamations of tiredness at being judged for what you are, not who you are, the piece demands more of us than just passive enjoyment.

Queen’s Park is also one of the backdrops for Traffic Light Cabaret, part of Dance International Glasgow’s online offer. Beautifully shot, with dynamic direction by David Banks, the short film is a whistle-stop tour of the city populated by roller-skating duo Sugar and Spin, freestyle dancer Dyron Sandoval and contemporary dancer Jenn Taggart. It’s an entertaining love letter to urban living, to dancing like nobody’s watching and to reclaiming the streets.

Sugar and Spin get the ball rolling, gliding down roads and zipping across a skate ramp, clearly loving every second. In an alleyway, they pass an invisible baton to Sandoval whose hip hop-infused movement leads to an unexpectedly charming reveal. Then into the aforementioned amphitheatre saunters Taggart, bringing a gentle elegance to the hard stone surrounding.

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