Searing Images and Explosive Relationships in Okwae A. Miller’s ‘The g [ R ] ay Boi’


Photo courtesy of Okwae A. MIller.

Okwae A. Miller & Artists presented the world premiere of The g [ R ] ay Boi on May 4th and 5th at The B-Complex, a roughly converted warehouse space in southwest Atlanta. I am still turning over images in my mind from the forty-minute dance work, performed in the round by the compelling dance artists Lyrric Cosby-Jackson, Zachary Orr, and Benjamin Stevenson.

Among them: Cosby-Jackson beating on the front of her thighs and clapping her hands together as she approaches Orr and Stevenson in an embrace. The thunderous sound and threat of the slap she seems about to deliver as she tears them apart, was like watching a disaster you can’t turn away from. As soon as she divided them, and wrapped herself around Orr, Stevenson repeated her aggressive moves and wrangled Orr out of her grip. The back and forth created as much sympathy for her personal struggle for love as it did for Orr and Stevenson’s right to be in a homosexual relationship. This fight scene also made the moments when Cosby-Jackson and Stevenson came together — in one later section, they lip-synched and vogued like besties, in another, Cosby-Jackson cradled Stevenson’s lifeless body after a police shooting — all the more powerful.

Playing on the size difference between the petite Stevenson and the more statuesque Orr, Miller also created some fantastic partnering sequences in which Stevenson scrambles over Orr as if summiting and descending a small mountain.

Photo courtesy of Okwae A. MIller.

Using a choreographic process that seems heavy on research, Miller was able to not only examine the complexities of lives of black gay men, but also comment on the homophobic elements and complexities of loved ones surrounding them. While the film projection and sound bites from speeches and news that sought to create the larger, mostly hostile, world in which these characters were forced to live, both need more filling out in order to feel fully necessary and integrated into this work. At its heart, Miller and his artists excelled at plumbing the depths and shifting dynamics of the relationships inside a love triangle. The performers were so committed and their bodies spoke volumes, by the end of the performance, a particular struggle became universal.

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