Words by Stella Rousham.
Three bodies lie dormant and heavy on stage. A thick smoke engulfing them, concealing their faces and identities. The fourth body weaves their way through the figures, their upper body hunched over, legs bent, arms waving delicately like a swooping bird, like a stylised grim-reaper. The face of the moving figure is obscured, both through the heavy smoke and from a hood that hangs low over their forehead, the rim of which is studded with small sparkling LEDs. The head of the moving figure swishes and twitches to a soundtrack of electronic tingles, murmurs and reverberations, evoking simultaneous images of death, loss and haunting with a futuristic twinge.
This is just one of the many, striking and deeply visceral sequences in the performance art/dance work by multi-media, choreographic artist, Malik Nashad Sharpe (who works under the alias Marikiscrycrycry). He’s Dead, originally created and performed by Marikiscrycrycry in 2020, is a three-act homage to the rapper and actor, Tupac Shakur, who was killed aged 25 in a drive-by shooting. References to the legacy, life and death of Tupac informed the piece, including an emotive sequence where Marikiscrycrycry recited the lyrics of one of his songs, ‘So Many Tears’, reformulating it into a melancholic ballad to examine wider issues related to the mental health, subjectivity and dehumanisation of racially marginalised groups.
The piece has four dancers which included Marikiscrycrycry, as well as Blue Makwana, Kendra Chiagoro-Noel and Jack William-Parry, whose relationships remained intriguingly ambiguous throughout the piece. Makwana and Marikiscrycrycry held a more central role in leading the choreography, opening the work with a mesmerising duet. This was followed by an incredibly visceral fight sequence between Marikiscrycrycry and William-Parry, which powerfully and emotively alluded to themes related contemporary struggles against injustice, violence and denial of humanity of socially marginalised people.
The movement itself was hard to fault. The fours dancers had impeccable timing and precision, shifting seamlessly between conflicting dynamics and styles, from elegant, tender penchés and pliés to powerful and punchy rhythmic stepping. One of the dancers, Chiagoro-Noel, seemed to linger more in the background, appearing and disappearing through the smoky stage, generating the effect of a ghostly apparition. I would’ve loved to see more group dance sequences, particularly to build an even greater, climatic ending.
One of the great strengths of He’s Dead were the rich and compelling aesthetics, generated through carefully curated lighting and costume, the latter of which styled by artist Mia Maxwell. The four dancers each wore individualised, punk-style attire with influences from 90s Hip-Hop and anime: a red tartan jacket and wide trouser two-piece, a loose, black and white stripey dress, a cropped patent jacket revealing a midriff, chunky, laced leather boots and a good garnishing of silver chains, studs and collars. Flashes of red and the glimmers from silver chains and studs caught the dim lighting which was eerily dark and cold on stage.
A particularly distinctive moment was a tableau of Makwana and Marikiscrycrycry, standing in-front of what looked like two ornate, wooden thrones, recalling something that could be found in a gothic mansion. In front of the thrones, the dancers held static poses with their hips jutted to the side, knee bent and arms over head – reminiscent of the positions of vogue style dance.
Along with a thick smoke which engulfed the dancers throughout the piece and several moments of video projection, the stage craft worked together to effectively create a very memorable and transfixing melancholic, haunting scenery. It was refreshing to see such attention to fine details put into the costumes and stage craft.
The penultimate sequence of the piece featured two dancers, Makwana and Marikiscrycrycry, sitting on the floor around a shimmering, silver bowl of water. Using both of their hands in a cupping motion, they tenderly splashed water onto their faces. They repeated this action for several minutes, each time getting bolder in the movement, as it became increasingly sensual, moving their hands further down their face, stroking their neck, indulging in the freshness of the water, like a deep, compulsive, cleansing ritual, evoking pertinent questions related power, bodily control and humanity.
He’s Dead was performed from August 23rd – 28th 2022 at Summerhall, Edinburgh, as part of the Horizon Showcase 2022. To find about more about Marikiscrycrycry’s work and to keep up to date on further performances, make sure to check out their website: maliknashadsharpe.com
Concept, choreography and direction: Marikiscrycrycry. Dancers: Blue Makwana, Kendra Chiagoro-Noel, Jack William-Parry and Marikiscrycrycry. Sound designers: JONI, Joanna Pope, ¥ummy Online. Sound research: Dylan Spencer-Davidson, TAAHLIA. Flag designs: Zeinab Saleh. Lighting and Technical Design: Jon Cleveland. Dramaturgy: Martin Hargreaves. Producer: Ash Bowmott and Laura Sweeney, The Uncultured. Photography: Elise Rose, Anne Tetzlaff. Trailer filmmaker and editor: Kassandra Powell. Costumes and styling: Mia Maxwell. Set build: James St. Findlay