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This past weekend, I went to one of the most innovative performances I’ve ever seen. Denae Hannah, a performance artist and educator, debuted her newest show, Five Star Chick. Inspired by the Yo Gotti song, Denae decided to explore and challenge the imagery and expectations of black womanhood. The result is hella hilarious, impressive and sexy.
The show features pieces like the “Miss New Booty Pageant,” “I-Dating,” and “Blue Magic” (a special planet with climatic, barometric, and atmospheric parameters that are perfect for black hair).
My favorite piece is probably “Ballerotica” which is a sensual and silly presentation of the obsession with “getting a baller.” The literal interpretation is priceless.
By far the most powerful piece is “Hold Me,” which dramatizes the experience of many black women’s relationships (or attempts at them) with black men.
Denae uses video, slides, monologues, and dance to investigate what it means to be black, a woman, educated, a dancer, and a person in today’s America. She also devoted the second act to a conversation with the audience about their impressions and her intentions. I loved all of that, but her use of humor in the piece is what stood out most to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen comedy expressed through dance in the way Denae pulled it off.
It made the story more accessible and allowed for an entry point into some challenging topics. I am so excited about this next generation of young black comedic storytellers, from W. Kamau Bell to Issa Rae to Elon James White to Eric Andre, and beyond, the world is getting exposed to a beautiful range of blackness and identity. It’s largely what I strove to celebrate in How To Be Black. Well done, Denae.
For most of October and November, Denae will be continuing to workshop the show at Stanford University. Meanwhile, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and the normal Internet. Stay tuned, world.
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