The words “nobody’s listening to me” rang through the speaker as dancer Ajah Muhammad performed, at times shielding her face with her arms as she knelt or jumping into the air.
The piece, choreographed by Long Beach-based dancer James Mahkween and set to Demi Lovato’s song, “Anyone,” captured the sense of loss of time and opportunity felt by dancers like Muhammad, Mahkween and more at the showcase REFLECT.
REFLECT, created by Mahkween about four years ago, is a showcase that gives choreographers a platform to share their work based upon a chosen theme, including love and gratitude for previous showcases.
“I believe in focusing on topics that matter and need our attention,” Mahkween said. “So I created REFLECT to focus on things to give people an opportunity to get into that discussion, not just for the choreographer, but for the audience too.”
That opportunity came on Jan. 16 at Rose Park, where an intimate, masked crowd sat on the grass and watched the hourlong performance.
The theme was on time, which Mahkween said he felt there wasn’t enough of.
Muhammad said that the piece she performed was about feeling invisible, and as an artist, she connected to that sentiment even prior to the changes the coronavirus pandemic brought.
“Now that we are in the pandemic, it feels like we are more invisible than usual,” Muhammad said. “And I know this is something that a lot of artists in general can relate to just because now it seems like we have to fight more to be seen, to be heard and to be to be looked at when we’re expressing.”
The cancelation or postponement of opportunities, the closures of performances venues and the loss of having proper spaces to practice in have made it more difficult for dancers like Muhammad.
Other performers included Maili Schlosser and Tanner Miranda-Rumbo, Long Beach State alumni who performed in the showcase to a piece choreographed to a song from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Schlosser said that she had played around with that soundtrack before this piece, and she and Miranda-Rumbo wanted to use something that had a sound reminiscent of metronome.
The two had performed in Mahkween’s REFLECT showcase last year, and they wanted to continue with it this year, the pair saying that seeing dance live, “felt like home.”
“I feel like making something because it’s been so stagnant with the pandemic and everything,” Schlosser said.
Mahkween said it was important to have community events like REFLECT that can be done safely in open spaces. He said that art connects people, and people are in need of that connection now.
“[Art is] what brought us alive in the first place, right, and we’re not getting to indulge in that right now so we’re also being drained from natural art,” Mahkween said.