Kimani Fowlin's "Womantra"

A Journey for Performers and Audience

by Daniel Burkholder

Choreographer Kimani Fowlin slowly rocks in a fetal position within a red sand circle at The INOVA Arts Center at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Audience members move to the edges of the room. A couple enters the red circle as they bend down to gently place one of the rocks each audience member was given into Fowlin's hand. With this act the couple crosses the line between performer and audience, and is an apt metaphor for the performance.

“Womantra” continues as Fowlin rolls, crawls, walks and finally propels herself outside the safety of the circle into the presence of artist/performer Teri Wagner. Confronted with this possible mother figure or goddess, Fowlin sacrifices herself as she is manipulated, tied up and led away with the audience following.

Wagner washes Fowlin's feet in a large ceramic bowl in the middle of the second gallery. Fowlin, for the first time, acknowledges the audience as she playfully splashes them with water and the work, quite suddenly, shifts from a private act to a public one.

In the third gallery Fowlin enters a trance-like dance as she follows a snake-like path of flower petals. Fowlin appears lost in increasingly intense rhythmic, African-derived movement, but breaks out to make momentary contact with audience members. Fowlin, exhausted, falls into an embrace with Wagner.

In the final gallery Fowlin and Wagner thoughtfully walk, use simple gestures and quietly recite a poem. The work ends with each audience member placing a rock onto the alter of goddess figures, abstract sculptures and the performers' family pictures.

“Womantra” is an important journey for Fowlin, rich with images and symbolism. But this performance is not only for her as the audience is invited to reflect on their own, sometimes winding journey.

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