One Drop by Sonya Lindfors

Words by Francesca Matthys.

Sonya Lindfors is charismatic and warm as she greets us in the foyer before her offering. We are encouraged to laugh, applaud and react to what we see. A significant sentiment to open One Drop with, a work that is both playful and entertaining but also embedded with history and immense societal commentary.

This invitation to be at ease, at home is extended into the space as we are welcomed by the sounds of reggae music drifting through the air while the performers bless their home with intentional preparation. 

The first object I notice on stage is a marble white head, a prehistoric artifact that I initially perceive to be a white male head representative of colonialism, of past time infiltrating into the present. It watched us as it sits above the large speakers stacked in the centre of the space. This is a contrasting image of past and present juxtaposed in the here and now, perhaps to show how we are always in conversation with what has come before. It is later revealed that the head present is that of an ancestor; shifting, watching and protecting.

Music is an extension of what holds power in this world. A powerful presence that dictates our emotions, how and when we choose to hold our breath. The title also references the One Drop reggae beat that we hear throughout the work, serving as a reassuring sound.

The first initiation of movement we are offered in the world of One Drop is complete groove, a solo performer indulging in rhythm and sauce. A baptism of self liberation, articulating how we will proceed together. This solo develops beautifully and unexpectedly into a competitive duet. A commentary on how black female presenting bodies are often portrayed in the media as fierce, ferocious and sometimes aggressive. While this escalates, another performer creeps along the wall as if he is a spy in an otherworldly environment. The work is crafted beautifully in its use of the foreground and background, allowing us to experience diverse emotional tensions concurrently.

As all the performers fill the stage, their costumes are revealed to all possess either tassels or shiny material, presenting the black body as a spectacle. This is further emphasized as we see performers embodying practices such as martial arts and cultural dances from the African diaspora, practices that are often observed in particular contexts. This nature of spectacle is always heightened when black bodies are the subject of performance within predominantly white institutional spaces, a reality that Lindfors speaks about within and out of the work. 

Power relations in the work create both entertainment and alarm as we witness stereotypes of the black female body as a sexualised object and the black male as a predator at the hand of white patriarchy. The pair of performers who embody these tropes enact a powerful duet interrogating black exploitation and fear through using words such as globalisation, colonisation, representation. Words that are all part of the contemporary (another word used) vocabulary discourse explored in the work.

The work threads together many artistic and cultural lineages to bring together theories, embodiments, and practice that exist together evocatively. Lindfors mentioned in the post performance discussion that there are many layers of the work that anyone may access and engage with and this approach offers this. 

As the performers shadow box and perform various other actions that again often have distinct relationships to the spectator, I wonder if we are in a liminal world where they must perform for the white man, for the institution, for capitalism. Perhaps as a repetitive tool to shift what no longer serves us. 

One Drop is an interdisciplinary feat, though I am moved by a moment of dimly lit ensemble choreography that resembles a mourning social dance; collectively processing what has been lost in our lineages through colonisation. As well as a tender duet exploring black intimacy reminiscent of films such as ‘Malcome and Marie’ that too allow delicate insights into black love.

Comedy breaks the tension of the world as the performers now embody what seems to be vampires referencing Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Black bodies clad in white attire stained by the bloodshed of time. Only here do they overtly mention the idea of ‘purity as a fantasy’. This is a great choice as it allows us to create our own interpretations from the rich tapestry of the work before consolidating our experience through dialogue.

In the penultimate moments there are sounds of crashing ruble, demolition, colonial structures and ideals crumbling to the ground but also what may be perceived as war. A poignant reflection on our current reality, it reminds us that we can always rebuild, and that in order to heal, we must shed the old.

As Bob Marley’s words ‘Don’t let them change you or even rearrange you’ ring through my head, I am reminded of this sentiment, to simply honor who one is and the fabric that one is made up of.

Header image by Tuuka Ervasti.

Directing, choreography and concept Sonya Lindfors
Working group Antonia Atarah, Hamis Ahmed, Geoffrey Erista, Nori Kin, Isabella Shaw, Mariama Slåttøy, Alma Bø Gettachew, Erno Aaltonen, Jussi Matikainen, Sanna Levo, Angel Emmanuel, Aino Koski, Janina Salmela, Divine Tasinda and Sonya Lindfors.
Contributors to the process Ornilia Ubisse, Judith Arupa, Alen Nsambu, Johanna Karlberg, Jaakko Pallasvuo
Production UTT ry and Sonya Lindfors