21st CENTURY META-NARRATIVE OF THE FEMALE BODY
The 12th annual JOMBA! Dance festival kicked off with a bang at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with three performances from Durban choreographers Desire Davids, Sifiso Majola and Vusi Makanya, who all feature as part of the New Works Programme.
The evening began with a thought-provoking address by JOMBA! Artistic Director Lliane Loots, whose speech set the provocative tone for the subsequent performances.
First up was Desire Davids’ intriguingly titled work “Who is This Beneath This My Skin”, a dance theatre experience which turned out to be as much about putting on layers as stripping them away.
Mainly set to Liam Magner’s wonderfully twitchy music compilation, Davids as principal performer and choreographer offers a 21st century meta-narrative of the female and the female body which serves as a critique of the way in which individuals are made to fit into neat little packages; a critique which is made literal by the “one size fits all” t-shirt which hangs on the make-shift washing line on the stage.
The piece begins curiously with a box on the stage with a picture of Davids on it, which is then turned to reveal a pupal figure shrouded in a cocoon of bubble wrap. This is followed by the spasmodic emergence of Davids as she moves precariously across the stage to end up on a strip of bubble wrap laid out on the stage beneath washing lines. Her movements oscillate between stiff, mechanical music-box ballerina and wildly organic soul-dance.
Throughout the performance Davids plays around with the notion of putting on and stripping away layers, whether it’s layers of clothing, or the more abstract layering of performance, as she uses projected photographs of herself as well as a live video feed of her performance. The piece culminates in a humorously cheeky moment of defiance which brings a liberating ending to a work which struggles against confinement.
The following performance, Sifiso Majola’s “I thank you” was a less extravagant affair, but carried an emotional weight of a very personal artistic statement. Majola was joined on the stage by Siyabulela Mbambaza in a performance that was as honest as it was commanding. The slow, deliberate rhythms of their movement were punctuated by sudden bursts of energy. The photograph projections foregrounded the autobiographical impulse of the work, as photographs from the Majola’s personal history were used. The fact that he felt the need to speak to the audience directly reinforced the personal statement that he was trying to make.
The final performance of the night, Vusi Makanya’s “God’s unspoken words” was arguably the most exuberant, as it was tinged with a religious fervour that seemed to electrify his performers, who were all from his Dusi Dance company. As a piece about the triumph of faith in a religiously segregated community, the religious garments suspended over dancers’ vigorous bodies worked tremendously well. They seemed to serve as a reminder of the emptiness inherent in the material representations of faith, while the dancers’ working bodies underscored the importance of individual faith.