Review of Head Wrap Diaries | Uchenna Dance
by Ami Fullalove
Saturday 18 November 2017 at Bradworthy Memorial Hall, Devon
An hour of dance and theatre about hair. On paper it sounds dull or trivial. In reality it was quite the opposite – an amusing and beautiful production celebrating the versatility of afro-hair – and one of the best performances I have seen in a long time.
The Head Wrap Diaries follows three extremely talented performers on a journey of empowerment and self-belief that began in a hairdressers. Breaking the fourth wall and calling to the audience as if calling for the next appointment procured two willing members to sit on the stage throughout the piece, as if waiting for their hair appointment. The performers cleverly brought these two impromptu cast members into the piece without any of the discomfort normally associated with audience participation.
The performers showed us life as a child with afro-hair, the struggles and longing for long flowing blonde ‘Barbie-like’ hair when the reality was a harsh, painful lengthy process of braiding, combing, chemical treatments and never looking like ‘Barbie’. I felt that the whole audience could relate to the references to school playground titters and trying to ‘fit in’.
In fact, the subject of hair represented all of those apparently small yet profound experiences as we grow up that relate to personal appearance, the desire to con-form to society’s expectations of beauty and the importance of cultural heritage.
All of this was brought to life with laugh-out-loud comedic acting and perfect choreography – a brilliantly delivered fusion of House, vogueing, Waaking, African and Contemporary styles – performed to an irrepressibly foot-tapping soundtrack of 90’s hip-hop vibes and African beats.
But the crown and motif of the piece was the intricate and utterly awe-inspiring ways to wrap hair in the most stunning African fabrics.
Pride, Heritage, Bold, Royalty, Beautiful, Motherland, Essence, History – words the dancers repeated to end the piece as the two audience members wrapped their own hair and we all clapped in recognition at how good they looked.
The performers gave an after-show invite to learn how to wrap hair. Watching children and adults come together and laugh and take photos in shared celebration was a perfect end to the evening.