It’s a combination of evocative beatbox, emotionally compelling dance composition and a stark spoken narrative
BY SAMANTHA GRIERSON, IMAGES BY SAMANTHA GRIERSON
An all queer cast, Like Mercury is an alliance between musician and world champion beatboxer Bellatrix, dancer and choreographer Emma Houston, Annie Edwards and Chantelle Dawe. Born out of a lockdown collaboration and commissioned for Birmingham International Dance festival on the theme of “finding a home in roaming”, it’s about the fluidity of identity and breaking down binaries.
Emma and Bel hadn’t worked together before, but with their shared experience of the hip hop industry they hit it off with an easy and instant connection, discovering that they were both exploring gender identities during the disorientation of a lockdown world. It is perhaps this which accelerated their creativity and passion to work on a project that would challenge dominant cultural narratives and really move the audience with affecting music and arresting dance visuals. I asked Bel, why “Like Mercury” as a title? They laugh and admit that their mum named it after listening to Bel describe the essence of the project over the kitchen table: “Mum said, moulding to the space between things? Like Mercury? She nailed it”.
Bel addresses the theatre: “Can I introduce myself please”? The music stops, the drama halts, the lights lift and the audience is confronted by hard hitting messages as the characters reveal their stories. Emma speaks directly to the audience: “A girl at Uni said to me, I would date you if you were a boy. I’ll just leave that comment there…”. Chantelle continues: “I told my mum I prayed to God to make me straight. But that was a lie”. These raw insights into life for these queer artists hit hard and as I looked around the audience, people were moved. The physical response was palpable. I asked Bel why this section was important to them, and they replied: “We are all so used to people deciding who they think we are and projecting that onto us, so we wanted to create a space where we could introduce ourselves”.
Bellatrix’s peerless, stratified music merges with the onomatopoeic thud of feet landing on the wooden stage after a body defying gyrating twist which pushes the audience to engage in this immersive experience. The project has emotionally pushed the four artists, providing them with the opportunity and the platform to show up and be themselves, an often exhausting and impossible task. The bravery and courage of what they have achieved in this performance is both impressive and humbling.
Like Mercury is a combination of Bellatrix’s classic layered, rich and evocative beatbox, Emma’s emotionally compelling dance composition and a stark and devastatingly spoken narrative which makes this an entirely original and compelling piece of theatre.
The collective are looking to tour their piece and take other audiences on their compelling journey. For more info, visit Bellatrix’s website.
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