Triple Threat: A Personal View of Intersectionality (contains spoilers)

Sonny Nwachukwu in performance by Beth Watton

Sonny Nwachukwu in performance by Beth Watton

We enter the studio. A young man sits on a sofa. There is a lamp, a chair and a coffee table. On some of the chairs in the front row cuddly soft animals have been placed. The young man picks at his nails. Suddenly the music starts and he burst into life. The quietness is gone. Now he is bright and vibrant. He shimmies and pops to the beat and his face shines with joy as he squeezes every ounce from the music. He lip-synchs into an aerosol. He grooves and grinds against the lamp, his make-believe partner. He struts down an imaginary catwalk. He sings to a cuddly toy. This is his space and he totally owns it.

However, there is deep sadness. The vibrant joy is in sharp contrast to the harsh fact that he is alone. The aerosol, the lamp, the cuddly toys are instead of real life connections with people. Yes, the audience is here. But we are here by invitation to view his world because he has something to tell us.  The dancing stops and he returns to the sofa.

Nwachukwu in this work-in-progress, presents a mix of dance and spoken word. The latter reveals his inner monologue and his sadness becomes clear. He is Black. He has a disability – he stutters. He is gay. This last fact is so unsayable, so dangerous, powerful and forbidden that he has to spell out the letters. He cannot say the word. This is a deeply personal lesson in intersectionality. Intersectionality occurs when a person experiences more than one axis of disadvantage or oppression. Here, Nwachukwu gives us three. His Blackness, his disability and his homosexuality. These intertwine to turn him into the Triple Threat of this work’s title.  He is shunned three times over.

Nwachukwu’s combination of dance and spoken word is skilfull. Dance shows us the joy in the possibility of what could be. The powerful and frequently beautiful imagery of his spoken word (the brittle brown mess before the butterfly becomes the butterfly) presents his internal monologue and his direct challenge to us.

Finally, he gathers together the soft toys from the front row and folds back into himself. Lying on the floor with the soft toys, there is no one else.

Triple Threat was one of three pieces presented at Making Black History at Poplar Union. The other artists were Dickson MBI and Sabrina Richmond.

Kate Coleman is a member of DanceGRiST