International Love Collective

I just came across this review of the International Love Collective @ the Buffalo Bar (where I first saw them) and thought I’d share it with you.

Do you share my excitement about the United Diversity Sessions of Spontaneity @ Passing Clouds event on Dec 15th?

Buffalo Bar, one Sunday in the summer of 2007

A steely-eyed girl with feathers in her hair beckons us underground. Who could resist? Deep red walls and steep falling stairs channel us down the narrow passageway until we emerge. She points to a poster on the wall, blazoned with the words ‘International Love Collective’. As we are studying it she slips away and we are left to drink in our surroundings. The shady basement bar is filled with people; the steamy temperature belies the cool evening from which we have descended; the walls glow with the energy that is building up.

Shoulder to shoulder, we idly watch, chatter, and wait as the bird girl flits to and fro; others buzz and glide through the room, piling instrument after instrument onto the tiny platform that is their stage for the evening. The room grows brighter, the audience moves forward and the International Love Collective pile on to the stage: they as crowded on the stage as we are in front of them. The boundaries of normal life don’t seem to matter down here and from the birth of this performance it is clear that nothing halt them on their journey. I get the feeling that they intend to take us with them. This, for some reason, doesn’t alarm me as much as it should do, confronted as we are with near-naked bodies, covered in what could be war paint, not to mention the flirtatious batted lashes of a bass player whose ruffled shirt clashes disarmingly with the coral red which he has chosen for his lips tonight.

What follows is an ambush on all our senses that intoxicates and makes us accomplices in their rites – the heady effect of their music and their bodies disorientates. They move from soft hot whispers to a steely unflinching grip with such fluidity and grace that I cannot tell where tenderness ends and aggression begins – and no longer do I care.

And now, the piercing gaze of deep brown eyes holds us all, holds us all wrapped in the force she exudes as she speaks out. With all of the instruments heaped around her, it is her voice alone that rings out through the silence. She defiantly spits out the words ‘I am not asking you to like me’ and I know what I had already suspected: the love that this straggling band of minstrels peddles is not the kind that you are offered from the safety of a cinema screen – its raw and unforgiving, but so intoxicating that you will find yourself panting for more. The susurrations and the mellow beats of the drums caress our ears and lick away the force of what has come before. This is exactly the kind of amour that I’ve been aching for.

There is no time for us, new initiates in the wonders of the International Love Collective, to think about where all this is heading. From the opening declaration – a defiance and a challenge – we are given a glimpse of what must be only a few of the Collective’s many colours. The beat of the djembe and a resonant voice, the jangle and chime of a coin belt – these come next, as a truce, a peace offering. The bodies around me, shedding their outward lives and their daily armour, pulse and flow with the guiding force of the music. The front knot of the audience is allowed the privilege of the voyeur no longer and some of the group slip from the stage, from the shady sides of this place, into our midst. They dance and twist, compelling us to do the same and suddenly, before we are fully aware (the knowledge that I am prey to their dominatrix whim compels me) the atmosphere has changed and two male bodies have begun to move in, around, and over each other. Their powerful moves teeter on the brink of violence; capoeira moves that flirt constantly with war and celebration. That’s the kind of love we’re getting tonight and I can see that noone is complaining as we drop to our knees, levelling with the twisting and bending shapes of the two dancers and making space for others to catch a glimpse.

The tension never drops and we are tantalised with sultry voices and bodies slippery with sweat, under the glowing lights. I realise that I too am hot and dripping – but the trumpet sounds out our passion and I am transfixed.