Review: The Head Wrap Diaries at Contact Theatre

  • Presented by Uchenna Dance
  • Northern Quota reporter Jess Stoddard reviews the dance piece

Uchenna Dance present an uplifting blend of dance, theatre, great music, a good dose of humour and … hair stories

The piece was devised in 2014 shortly after founder Vicki Igbokwe begun her natural ‘hair journey’. The piece creates an experience that celebrates the versatility of afro-hair, the diversity of black women to embrace and own their beauty; irrespective of how they choose to wear their hair.

The Head Wrap Diaries showcases three fierce, clever and witty female characters exploring femininity, beauty and culture and hair, with a fusion of house dance, waacking, vogue, African and contemporary dance.

The opening dance sequence is in complete silence, with minimal lighting on stage. The piece is about the preparation for putting on a head wrap. The dancers crouched down on the floor and placed their heads on the end of their head wraps – the way they place their head and hands on the floor makes a connection to the ground and the earth.

The women then start to crawl backwards across the stage while breathing heavily and moving their bodies up and down with its rhythm. As they crawl across the stage, you realise that the head wrap is in fact a long piece of material they are spreading out across the stage as they move. 

The mood suddenly changes as the music is turned on. The dancers enter what looks like the runway of the head wrap fabric and begin waacking and voguing dance styles that use a lot of strong arm movements and isolations. 

Shanelle Clemenson’s character has the sass of a drag queen, yet the femininity of a young girl trying to get through the day without people asking her why she has short hair. In her own words, “Because I look good!”

Emmanuella Idris’ portrayal of a young black girl wanting long, smooth, blonde Barbie hair is one to sympathise with. The saying ‘The grass is greener on the other side’ is very true in this instance, with some black women wanting long, golden hair, while some white women want curly afro hair. You always want what someone else has – but this piece breaks boundaries by letting everyone have fun. 

Natalie Bailey is like the wise old woman in this show, being the narrator in most part, and embodying her Aunt, as we she her first experience at the hairdressers. Natalie explored the cultural element of the head wrap, with the journey that you go on when being given your head wrap to the actual putting on of the scarf. 

The piece ends with the women embracing their culture and dancing an African piece, using the head wraps as capes and props. 

This piece is very moving, celebrating hair in its natural form and is a celebration of women, whether you wear a head wrap, a wig, have long hair or even no hair, just expressing yourself and not being afraid to do so.