On Tues Nov 8th, the Blue Elephant Theatre presented Morir Soñando, a dance performance choreographed by Stephanie Peña.
The show was also put on the day before and is part of the theatre’s Elefeet Dance Festival, which runs until Wed Dec 14th. Throughout the piece, there are sonic elements , such as chanting and a piercing scream, utilized to add to its overall effect. There is choreographed motion, even when there is no music to accompany it. With a deliberate usage of light, audio, and other such effects, Morir Soñando takes elements from Dominican culture, such as dance (Merengue), music, and language, and creates a narrative of identity and self-realization.
The first dancer on the stage portrayed the Dominican protagonist of the narrative. She opened the performance with a solo, and illuminating the stage were two lights that created dramatic shadows. She was then joined by three other female dancers. The contrast between the roles the dancers played was evident in their physical details – the first dancer wore white and the others wore salmon pink. Furthermore, the protagonist was a woman of color while the others were white.
The narrative is one that is all too familiar to anyone, myself included, who has tried to define his or her identity in a society in which which he or she is a minority. Morir Soñando opens with a girl who dances fearlessly on her own. She is happy and comfortable with herself. The other characters are introduced, and the four dancers coexist for several minutes without any conflict.
Conflict soon comes. The dancers clad in pink appear to be watching the Dominican protagonist, sometimes following her. They become increasingly physical – reaching out to touch her, grabbing her arms and legs, then pinning her down to the floor.
The next part of the performance shows the four girls dancing together. There is no more animosity, and the dancers are all in sync with one another. However, the peace does not last for long. After a while, our Dominican protagonist does not seem to have the desire to participate in dancing with the other girls. Her shoulders, hands, and hips are moved for her, almost as if she is a puppet. She resists them. When she tries to break free, she is met with physical aggression once again.
The performance ends on a happy note with the protagonist breaking free and dancing the way she wants to. The message of Morir Soñando is a hopeful one, one that sees the possibility of staying true to yourself despite pressures to conform.
ADDRESS: Blue Elephant Theatre, 59a Bethwin Rd, Camberwell, SE5 0XT