Arts

‘Dapline!’ Examines the cultural significance the handshake has had in African American history

By January 22, 2019 No Comments

Photo: Bob Gore

An acronym for “Dignity and Pride” coined by black combat troops during the Vietnam War, the “DAP” or “dapping” refers to the intricate handshakes that served as greetings between those troops and later young black men in the United States.

Not to be confused with the choreographed or expressive handshakes seen by sports teams in celebration, dapping carries a deeper intimacy and meaning, says LaMont Hamilton one of the co-creators of Renegade Performance Group’s production, Dapline!. The troupe will perform the work Friday, Feb. 1 at Downtown’s August Wilson Center in partnership with HI-ARTS.

“The DAP has a specific lineage and social meaning and is part of the coded languages used within every idiom of Blackness throughout history,” says André M. Zachery, the production’s other co-creator/choreographer.

Zachery, a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist who earned a BFA from the Ailey/Fordham and an MFA in Performance & Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) from Brooklyn College says Dapline! is not solely focused on the theatrics of the DAP or the handshakes themselves.

“This performance is getting into the real moments of exhaustion, joy and celebration of testimony that has created what the DAP is,” Zachery said. “We really get behind the energy and these narratives over time. Some that have been translated and passed down, others specifically from moments in time like the Vietnam War and the Black Art and Black Power movements and seeing how those relate to the present.”

And while the DAP has been around for a half century, Hamilton, an interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago who works primarily in photography, film and performance, said it really hasn’t evolved in so much as it has carried on over time.  

“It is a specific community that embeds the communication inside a handshake,” Hamilton said. “The general sense of comradery, fellowship and belonging are there but a specific code is not necessarily passed down to the next generation. The theatrics however, is just as complex as it was in the 60s and 70s as it is today.”

Premiered in 2016, Dapline! is the performative element of Hamilton’s visual art project Five on the Black Hand Side.  In Pittsburgh, four dancers will perform the hour-long work to a soundtrack of the dancers’ own body percussion along with improvised vocals by Yaw Agyeman that will take the audience on a journey as to what DAP is, where it came from and where it is going.  

“It is an impressionistic view of this landscape that is primarily one of African American males of a certain age and all the things that make up this landscape now and throughout its history,” Hamilton said.

Brian Seibert of The New York Times said of Dapline!: “It’s both confrontational and intimate, the way that dapping can be both an expression of brotherhood and akin to the antler clashing of rutting moose.” Having seen video excerpts of the production, it is visually that and emotionally so much more.

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