‘Body Politics’ expressed color through dance, storytelling and improv.

By Nia Decaille

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Cade Belisle/Collegian

In a dark room with no fancy lighting or elaborate stage props there was something somber about the 11 barefooted women beckoning the crowd to snap their fingers.

It was dialogue, poetry and personality.

It was “Body Politics.”

“Body Politics” took place Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the University of Massachusetts Campus Center Auditorium. Audiences gathered a series of women’s experiences pertaining to racial identity, sex, violence, grief and sisterhood. The tones fluctuated between serious and humorous depending on the tale told, and all stories were portrayed through emotionally driven dance, monologue and song.

“Body Politics” coordinator and psychology major Letisha Harris described the feeling of the show as “liberating energy between the audience and performers.”

Originating in 2004, this year marked the show’s ninth annual performance.. UMass graduate students Rani Varghese and Lisa McCarthy approached the Women of Color Leadership Network (WOCLN) with an idea for a show celebrating women of color. WOCLN is a program within the Everywoman’s Center at UMass. This theater production was originally titled “From the Belly” at its debut, and has since been attracting women from all over Pioneer Valley.

Organizers of the show view it as an agent of expression, and in turn an avenue to aid women of color. One of “Body Politics” facilitator Andrea Domingue’s favorite parts of the production is the honor of seeing each woman’s transformation as a performer and individual. Domingue recruits women from all over the Pioneer Valley and uses their experiences to incorporate into her writing. This process of variation adds to the authenticity of the women’s voices and allows each individual to be heard the way they wish.

With a combination of theater-inspired monologue and the freedom of spoken word poetry, each woman bared her insecurities and the power of overcoming to friends, family and fans. Performers smiled, laughed and cried while speaking unhindered about things that affect them in their everyday lives. The show’s dichotomy of humorous and dark revelations captivated viewers while watching performances like “Dear White Folks” by Sarah Mathew and Neha Singhal  and “My Destiny” by Kandace Montgomery.

So what is the source of this raw and unedited emotion that the audience can see and feel?

“Body Politics” was presented in an atmosphere that focused on words and experiences by using only one simple stage light and donning the performers in comfortable clothing that didn’t serve as a distraction. To complement the personal narrative aspect of the show, performers directly asked audience members to participate. These unscripted characteristics gave the audiences glimpses into the performers’ nervousness, which led to support both on stage with help from other performers and offstage with encouraging cheers. “Body Politics” left many speechless, but also left many feeling supported within the temporary community of the auditorium.

Harris explained that the show was about sisterhood. These experience-based performances may “open the door for other women and give courage,” said Harris.

WOCLN’s Hind Mari’s goal was to allow audiences to “hear with all your senses including your heart.” In no more than two hours, that goal was accomplished as audience members walked away from “Body Politics” with inspiration and newly appreciated, uplifting memoirs.

Nia Decaille can be reached at [email protected].