Joy inside our Tears
Participation in Harold Offeh’s video commission Wellcome Collection London, United Kingdom, 2021
Photos by Steven Pocock
The dance floor promises a moment of euphoric release. Throughout history people have danced to express religious devotion, or to subvert social expectations. Many communities use dance and movement as a way to process difficult experiences and heal.
Originally proposed before the pandemic, the commission was reconfigured due to physical distancing guidelines. The dancers’ movements are produced in response to a series of instructional scores, such as shaking, passing out and dancing in slow motion. The work considers the complex relationship between societal trauma and public manifestations of dance. These can be redemptive but can also hint at something darker. For the commission, Offeh researched the history of medieval dancing manias. While the causes of the manias are unclear, these eruptions of spontaneous dancing in the street were viewed as either mass hysteria or a form of spiritual possession.