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Faustin Linyekula: In Search of Dinozord

A glacially paced, heart-felt work that induced anger and discomfort in equal measure.

Faustin Linyekula in a scene from “In Search of Dinozord” (Photo credit: Agathe Poupeney)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

It takes chutzpah—or artlessness—to begin a show with five minutes of torturous music loud enough to deafen and to end it with the cast standing still for fully fifteen minutes. In between these two questionable events was a glacially paced, well-meaning, heart-felt work that, in its flat-footed way was meant to illuminate the chaotic, despicable conditions during recent revolutions in Zaire, the country from which Faustin Linyekula, its prime creator, comes.

In Search of Dinozord is Linyekula’s futile, naive attempt to turn the devastating history of his homeland into art. There was choreography—simple, spasmodic, realistic, but ultimately falling short of expressing anything but physical tension. There was a wonderfully minimal stage setting—by Studios Kabako/Virginie Dupray—that turned the well-equipped NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts stage into a sleek black box, with colored lines intersecting, a large red vertical structure and a back wall consisting of joined sheets of wood that served as a screen. Costumes—not specifically credited—were worn-looking casual street wear in faded colors. Lighting was exquisitely expressive.

Also clearly visible on the stage was a big red metal trunk that later figured into Dinozord when its contents, allegedly thousands of records of torture via diaries, letters, emails, etc., were spewed onto the stage and later tossed about in a fury.

The small cast included dancers Jean Kumbonyeki Deba, Papy Ebotani, Yves Mwamba Bakadiasa and a white-faced Linyekula who haunted the stage from a position down front; an able countertenor, Serge Kakudji who sang covers of Mozart, Montessuis and Pärt; and actors, Papy Maurice Mbwiti and Antoine Vumilia Muhindo who recited French language poetry and narrated tales of the benighted history of the area. The mythical Dinozord (whose real name I couldn’t catch), an original member of the troupe, spoke at great length on a computer feed from his political asylum in Sweden.

The Company of Faustin Linyekula’s “In Search of Dinozord” (Photo credit: Agathe Poupeney)

It was Dinozord’s tale that took up the lion’s share of the work, but it stopped the momentum completely, no matter the truth and passion with which it was delivered. (English subtitles on the screen gave clarity to Dinozord’s exhortations.)

In Search of Dinozord was awkwardly structured and told most of its stark tale via words, not movements, while the intense gyrations, undulations, falls and runs of the extremely dedicated dancers floated on top of the disgusting reality revealed by the words.

From my point of view as an urban, Western senior citizen, perhaps I missed something about the unwieldy construction of the work. Perhaps this is how stories are communicated in Zaire and my sense of pacing is out of synch with Linyekula’s. But, as an urban, Western senior citizen, my only emotions were anger and helplessness, emotions stimulated by all such histories—from the Holocaust to ethnic cleansings and brutal civil wars—and discomfort at Linyekula’s lack of artistry in telling it.

Faustin Linyekula: In Search of Dinozord (September 22 & 23, 2017)

Co-presented with French Insitute of Alliance’s Française’s Crossing the Line Festival

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-998-4941 or visit http://www.nyuskirball.org

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (226 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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