March is the month dedicated to celebrating women and thus, almost every day in the month has an activation geared towards celebrating or creating awareness.
This women’s day was coming at the time Ugandan women had a lot of fighting back to do, for instance, just less than a month back they had to voice their detaste for a minister that noted curvy women could be tourism attractions while at the same time demanding for justice for all the murdered women in Entebbe and across the country.
Much as art is never considered as people are putting together their women’s celebration schedules, this year artisans found ways of writing themselves in the agenda, from Sarah Nsigaye’s Native Festival that celebrates womanhood, film showcases to dance shows, women in art spaces were louder in the week leading to the Friday Women’s Day than they have been before.
I am A Female; a dance production that was staged at the National Theatre last Tuesday was one of such shows.
Headlined by women from fields like art, sports, business and of course the pop scene, the production may easily go down as one of the most successful shows the National Theatre has host in a long time.
May be the trick was in the cast of strong women and the inclusiveness, from media personalities Malaika Nnyanzi, Deedan Muyira, comedian Anne Kansiime, socialite Judith Heard, basketballer Flavia Oketcho, poet Nunu Umuringa and songstress Rachel K – it was clear none of them had been a professional dancer and yet, they were here headlining a major production.
Their celebrity dust was mixed up by Rozmerie Atim, Viccy Namuyomba and Cathy Mbabazi that make up the dance trio RVC; the trio is famous for offering their dance moves to acts such as Bebe Cool, Konshens, Sheebah Karungi, and Voltage Music among others.
Their pop followed them to the show, from their choice of music, dance moves and costumes, they were not intending to be theatrical or even contemporary, they were commercial and accessible even to a person that rarely follows dance.
And these were the majority in the audience that was made of socialites, fashionistas and other celebrities, at one corner, you had Joram Muzira, an agent of almost many of the models and on the other corner you had people like Martha Kay, Sheila Gashumba, Salvadoh Idrigi and his wife Daphine among others.
Art is mostly a make believe and the most important make believe in this particular show was going to have to convince the audience that Deedan or Nunu could dance. This was executed by letting all the star cast maintain their personalities, for instance Ann was funny, Deedan was bossy and well, Malaika was beautiful.
One of the most outstanding performances though was not the ordinary bumping on beats; it was rather a solo performance that had a dancer moves to the words of Sheebah Karungi and her experience with sexual abuse.
Since the dancers have in the past worked with Karungi on both video versions of her hit song Nkwatako, it was not surprising that the songstress was in the audience following the performance.
In the speech, she talked about a person she worked for and refused to pay unless she flashed her nudity for his satisfaction, “I left without being paid, because much as he could cheat that money, he could not take away my talent.”
With a black and white backdrop, the dancers pulled off a contemporary piece that saw her make circular moves, throwing her legs like she was doing a rebel version of ballet dance, but it was not ballet, because unlike the swiftness or grace that comes with the later, what she was doing was sad, hard and painful.
“Sexual abuse in many forms and if people are going to be abusing you at the places you work, respect yourself and leave.”
Sheebah’s speech was one of the surprising cameos the production gave the audience, but of course there were more like Mona Faces talking about building her business to various news reports about equal opportunities at the workplace to that of an activist that was undressed during arrest.
Other exciting performances included a piece on domestic violence that was done by Malaika, like much of the night, her costume was on point – the story of the performance told a story of a girl high moments in life, starting off with the graduation and later the wedding.
The choice of songs here were Maroon 5’s Girls Like You and Eve’s Who’s that Girl, even before the routine kicked off, people in the audience were already singing along, something that emphasized a fact that this was not the ordinary theatre going audience.
Malaika played the happy bride that smiled both at the wedding and through the hard moments in her marriage, she kept up appearances until she had enough and stood up for herself – the performance was odd considering the fact that it was contemporary on a night that had gone all pop.
But since the foundation of the show had been populist, colorful and easy for the eyes, it was not surprising a standing ovation was given.
I am A Female is one show that people will talk about even when it had major shortcomings with the production, some parts of it seemed overstretched possibly because the producers, who were also on stage enjoyed them – it would have been nice to have someone else produce the show.
But what made I am A Female stand out was not the dancers’ ability to do moves we have never imagined, they did not even re-invent anything but they managed to be accessible, they were understandable, they had the right props, for the right audience, the right amount of color, glitz and pop that has ruled social pages for years.
It was a dance show that will for years be known as one that came and avoided being too intelligent or abstract.