An exploration of African and Caribbean dance culture, Grin challenges hyper-sexualised notions and shines a light on solidarity and community through music, dance, and costume. Originally premiering in 2019 as part of the Dance International Festival, Grin is now available online as part of Summerhall Fringe 2021. It continues to stand out as an important commentary on objectification and perceptions within, and of, the African and Caribbean dance world.
A striking soundtrack threads the show together, composed by Patricia Panther, keeping me mesmerised almost throughout. This, paired with the lighting choices, make the opening in particular engaging and draws me fully into the show from the get-go. Grin begins with a scenic view of twinkling and glitter accompanied by music; however, the dancing itself doesn’t start for almost ten minutes. This is slightly off-putting, but I think once the dancing begins the suspense and soundtrack only make it more worthwhile. With the show being digital, you can also just skip to the dancing if that’s what you’d prefer.
The show is bookended by the dancers in tinsel costumes which cover their faces and bodies, with subtle movements which are similar to performance art. To me, the dancers almost become glitter balls drawing in my attention and becoming impossible to look away from. This contrasts nicely throughout the rest of the show; dancers beneath the tinsel are revealed and explore the humanity and rawness under all of the glitz. The play constantly reminds me of the human beyond the dance which, as the show suggests, subverts the hyper-sexualisation of these dancers throughout.
There is one particular moment in which Divine Tasinda, one of the talented dancers, comes on stage in tight shorts and starts twerking on the floor. Usually an audience might sexualise this moment. However, the intense look in Tasinda’s eyes alongside the already raw performance we have seen fuels this movement’s fire rather than sexualising it. What follows is a close-up of Tasinda’s hand on screen alongside the pulsating soundtrack which I find extremely evocative, and again, a reminder of the human beyond the dance.
Although there are many intense moments in Grin, it never lets us forget the pure joy and connection of movement. A lot of this show feels improvised and natural which only enhances its joy. Towards the end, Tasinda and her dance partner Kemono L.Riot share a freestyle-like playful exchange where we get to witness the friendship and excitement that dance can evoke. We are never left short of something new to witness and explore, as this show refuses to follow a narrative or stick itself into a box. At times, I am slightly disengaged due to confusion as to what is happening, but I am never lost for long as something new happens or the music changes and it draws me right back in.
Grin is a collection of movement, dance, costume, and sound. It takes you on a journey that defies labels and boxes and transports you to a new, mesmerising, wonderful world of challenge and joy. This show is a celebration of black culture and life and is definitely worth a watch if you are looking for raw joy and expression.
Grin is available online until Sunday 29th August 2021. For more information and to book tickets, visit Summerhall online.