Cherish Menzo: Jezebel Revue – a danced deconstruction of MTV misogyny | Dance

Jhe late 90s: a time of hedonism and dubious sexual politics, ladettes bragging about going to lap-dancing clubs, and “video vixens” on MTV: the beloved bikini-clad harem of rappers who would call them sluts while the camera salivated over their slow motion. mo gyrations. These “hip-hop honeys” are at the origin of Jezebel by the Dutch dancer Cherish Menzo, a deconstruction, even a detonation, of this hypersexualized image of the black woman.

Menzo isn’t about to start the party. The soundtrack to Jezebel, by Michael Nunes, is a deep, sinister rumble that makes for an utterly unsettling hour. She comes dressed in pink PVC shorts, a crop top, a white fur coat, and fake nails that double the length of her fingers. As she crouches onstage, those tendril-like fingernails become stabbing spider legs, sending a shiver down your spine. She has a camera that sends close-up images to the screen behind her: lips painted in purple glitter, a wet pink tongue sticking out like a sea creature. She atomizes the image, tears her power apart with disgust and ridicule. She takes some of the vixen moves, kneeling on the floor, quietly bouncing her booty, asking us to think about what we see, what a body means, as you hear the creak of her PVC pants .

Photography: Annelies Verhelst

Most powerful is when Menzo flashes the lyrics of Oochie Wally from Nas and Bravehearts onscreen, an abject lesson in male fantasy and female objectification, including the lines: “He really, really tried to hurt me / I really like his thug and gangster style. It turns the stomach. But when it suffices to expose the words crudely to take stock, what does Menzo add, beyond a catastrophic atmosphere and an ambiguous central figure?

Menzo is a bold performer, she’s got some nerve, she’s very quiet, and she has important things to say, but there’s not really an hour of material here. It’s one of those shows that’s more interesting to discuss and write about than to watch. But it might be a valid result for someone whose goal is to make you think.

At the Battersea Arts Centre, London, until October 14, then at the Fierce festival, Birmingham, on October 16.

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