A powerful migration story evoked stark emotion through dance and discussion over food at the close of the performance in URBN Center Annex’s Black Box Theater. The migration story is coupled with “Portraits of People on the Move,” an exhibition of personal stories from Philadelphia-area immigrants at the entrance of the Black Box Theater, supported by The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The exhibit showed faces and background stories that viewers could imagine before walking into the theater for the “Supper” performance.
“These bodies have defiantly and dangerously crossed frontiers, the body is the new territory, a new body indicating not only the possibility of extreme physical exertion containing and carrying signs of identity, mental and emotional entanglements. The body in Supper is overextended from survival as well as the restless exploration of new horizons,” choreographer and director Silvana Cardell is quoted saying in a brochure about “Supper.”
Cardell, an immigrant herself, uses “Supper” to address migration through movement. The performance displays multiple key scenes which describe the overall experience many immigrants undergo when making their journey to a new place.
The first scene of “Supper” starts with a farewell dinner. Each performer sits at a long table to share bread, drink together and hold hands. It represents love, unity and hope before going their separate ways. Other scenes included a well-known migrant train known as “The Beast,” which migrants use to reach the border. Performers’ use of light and tables allowed them to paint a scene of migrants jumping onto “The Beast” with only a trash bag of belongings. The train never stops, so passengers must watch each other as they sleep so that they don’t fall off the train, as well as sustain life with no food or health resources.
The daunting trip is enriched by an additional story where passersby throw grocery bags on “The Beast” to support those trying to survive on the train. Another notable scene depicts a performer dancing while holding up a single piece of paper by his fingertips. The paper, representing his green card, almost falls from his grasp throughout the solo, which shows the strife and hardship that comes with maintaining paperwork in this country.
The biggest takeaway from the meaningful and fascinating performance was the way in which the performers worked together. Many performers executed extremely difficult athletic moves. One dancer walked across the room and climbed to the ceiling using the other performers’ hands and bodies as support. This is not only impressive from an athletic standpoint but also representative of what it takes to successfully make a journey as difficult as crossing the border. Support and trust of others can help us reach goals that would be unreachable on our own.
A community is highlighted through this intense and meaningful story of migration in the United States. Cardell Dance Theater has continued to tour with “Supper” for multiple years and does not appear to be slowing down. “Supper” was presented by Drexel University Department of Performing Arts and performed by Cardell Dance Theater Nov. 8-10 in URBN Center Annex’s Black Box Theater. It is a must-see performance that speaks volumes.