Orimolade Ogunjimi on shekere and Dale Lazar on frame drum leading the crowd. (all images | Rodney Malpaya)
Filomena Calabrese and Rachel Thorne Germond
A loud rhythmic crack of the shekere (gourd shaker) and Ms. Jackson’s sign held high then summoned the group to move. The crowd followed her and a group of white clad dancers and percussionists a few blocks up Mowbray to the next performance site between the trees. There, Ann Mazzocca’s piece weaved together some of the movement and folklore of Afro-Cuban traditions into a poignant choreography paying homage to Oshún and Yemayá, divinities of the river and the ocean. Three dancers in traditional skirts danced to the live drumming and singing. After the resounding songs and flowing performance, the dancers distributed flowers individually to each audience member and led an offering at the river’s edge in which they praised Oshún and Yemayá, the sacred waters, and led folks in the throwing of their flowers into the water.
The crowd was then taken around the Hague for three more performance pieces that afternoon. Rachel Thorne Germond performed a duet on the bridge, using the locks on the railing and the benches to explore themes of confinement, conflict, memory and “letting go.” Kelly Rossum and two other trumpeters positioned at far corners of the inlet performed a piece that echoed eerily throughout the Hague. His harrowing composition was based on a Morse code message that translates to “Climate Change is Real – FLOOD!”
ArtPile #3 then culminated almost full circle across the inlet from where it had begun. The group gathered for the final piece in the dark, damp area under the Brambleton overpass. There, Dale Lazar performed the role of boxer, hitting a punching bag that had been strung up to the concrete support beams while a tenor saxophonist mimicked and dramatized his punch sequences and movements with notes and scales that echoed in the cavernous nook. The slightly creepy noir effect hardly startled one biker who sped through the crowd as Lazar shifted and punched. But then a family biking around the Hague came into the underpass and abruptly stopped to take in the bizarre, unexpected boxing performance.
The Hampton Roads-based choreographers/dancers and composers/musicians that joined to form ArtPile two years ago (a combination of independent artists and professors from ODU and CNU) did so with a specific goal to make work that fostered a sense of community and visibility for art in the area. With help from friends and the community but with no funding, the group has consistently succeeded in this mission. This latest installment brought provocative performance art to a polluted, sleepy inlet. Even the geese in the end seemed to enjoy and welcome ArtPile #3.