Rashaad Newsome – FIVE Berlin

Over the course of the festival, HAU2 will act as a home base for an exploration of the crossroads between movement and sound. In “FIVE,” multidisciplinary American artist Rashaad Newsome will investigate African, European, and North-American roots of vogueing.

This underground NYC dance tradition emerged out of the queer black & Latino ballroom scene in Harlem in the 1960s and 70s, but was only first thrust into the wider public eye in 1990 when Madonna released the eponymous song and music video inspired by it. The documentary, Paris is Burning, likewise released in 1990, also popularised the form. At its core, the dance style is a fluid, codified, highly developed form of runway modeling – in mid-20th-century New York, blacks and latinos had little hope of becoming mainstream supermodels, so they held their own competitions in community halls and ballrooms. As the popularity of these events increased, so did the rivalry, and the models began to develop demonstrative, highly performative runway routines that mimicked and reinterpreted white mainstream runway culture.

Newsome’s work draws its title from the five basic gestural elements of the tradition: hand performance; catwalk; dips and spins; floor performance; and duck walk. Each one is represented – and performed – by a dancer dressed in a bright color symbolic of the move’s character. The five dancers will be joined by five local musicians who imitate the dancers’ choreography through a mix of improvised and pre-composed material. Meanwhile, NY-based MC Princess Mami Precious and baritone opera singer Justin Austin will weave in vocal interjections throughout the entirety of the piece.

Rashaad Newsome, whose own work blends several practices – collage, sculpture, video, music, computer programming, and performance – to form a new creative field altogether, likewise brings a multidisciplinary approach to this project. While on the one hand the practice of vogueing is portrayed in a performative, 3D domain, it is likewise materialised and immortalised into the 2D as colourful, live-generated line drawings. Using video game controllers and custom motion tracking software, Newsome will map and visualise the movement patterns of dancers in real time; as he puts it, “the dancers act as my pen, creating lines, shapes, landscapes, and an array of narratives.” The resulting drawings, which are projected on stage, are dynamic representations of energy; and as stand-alone visuals, they recall modernist abstraction and action painting. During the performance, drawing, music, dance, and technology collide and build into a beautifully structured crescendo of movement and sound.

The project is a co-production with Kampnagel, and is kindly supported by the Capital Cultural Fund.


Date: 31.01. – 02.02.2018

Venue: HAU 2

Time: 19:30