Dance moves liven up Liza Mackay’s art exhibit

By RUPI MANGAT

I saw Liza Mackay’s Choreography exhibition at the Red Hill Art Gallery, Kiambu just outside Nairobi. I was excited but not surprised that Mackay would combine art with dance because as an alumnus of Kenya High School, Nairobi, where the arts are an institution.

Mackay is also a contemporary dancer and art teacher.

“The choreography is about movement in space,” Mackay said. “I love painting people,” she says, and her work is influenced by American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, who revolutionized dance in the early 19th century.

Mackay’s choreography is inspired by Adam Chienjo, whose repertoire of postures is integrated into contemporary dance. Bare skin except for black lycra shorts, Chienjo’s muscles tense then relax as he moves, then hold his frame in a sculptural frame. Its movements reflect Graham’s technique of contracting and releasing, such as breathing, now a “trademark” of modern dance forms. Chienjo, a contemporary dancer, is also an art teacher and has worked as an artist’s model for Mackay.

Rhythm to the soul

Like Graham, Mackay combines dance and drawing in choreography.

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“In classical ballet, you start with your feet turned 90 degrees outward, which keeps the body straight, but in contemporary dance, your feet are pointed forward, which allows for more movement. Contemporary dance follows no rules, it is rhythmic to the soul like African and Asian folk dance, while classical ballet has strict rules.

His paintings are in oil for depth of color, and being against a white canvas helps muscles and postures stand out. An exception are two ancient Egyptian colors showing contemporary dance moves of ancient Egyptian figurines.

Chienjo’s contemporary dance performance was accompanied by Nyatiti music played by Kake Wakeke. Nyatiti is a stringed instrument, traditional to the Luo of Kenya. The exhibition lasts until February 27.

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