03 September 2010



Lisa Sterne

As a JOMBA! “virgin”, I, like many other dance enthusiasts, eagerly awaited the opening of the 12th edition of the second biggest dance festival in South Africa.

On the programme were three commissioned pieces by Durban choreographers: Desire David’s “Who is This Beneath My skin?” Sifiso Majola’s “ I thank you” and the Vusi Makanya’s “God’s unspoken words”.

“Diversity is indeed wealth”, this was a statement made by Lliane Loots, the artistic director of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, in her welcoming speech. In light of this statement, I believe it would be correct to say that the opening night of JOMBA! was extremely rich in its display of diverse dance pieces .I suspect this will be a sign of the many exciting performances at JOMBA! this year.

This theme of diversity was profoundly examined and juxtaposed by Davids’ comment on conformity and identity in her conceptual, autobiographical, performance.  The work begins with an overhead light shining on a white T-shirt hanging on a washing line. Printed on it are the words “one size fits all”.

The piece depicts the dancer-choreographer’s journey of self discovery, which the audience can relate to. She explores the process of “unpacking” one’s identity to reveal one’s true character. This is cleverly illustrated in several ways: from the use of protective bubble wrap, to her trying to conform to certain identities (most of them pertaining to society’s view of a female identity), to an image of an orange being peeled.

 The action begins inside a box which has the words: “handle with care” and “this side up” projected onto it, with a projected image of the dancer wrapped in white cloth and tape sealing her mouth. When the box is turned around, we see that one side of the box is missing and we view a veiled figure.

This figure begins to move erratically after a male dancer from the Flatfoot Training Company had slowly removed the pieces of white cocoon leaving the layer of protective bubble wrap. The woman (Davids) then uses this bubble wrap to create a dress. The music changes into a tune which reminds one of a girl’s jewellery box which could be a comment on gender socialization.

At the change of the music (which is an interesting eclectic compilation done by Liam Magner), she begins a court-like dance with a partner. The work then incorporates other Flatfoot trainees, images and a live feed (by photographer/videographer Pascale Beroujon) which is projected on the box that Davids is in.

The second work was a heartfelt tribute by KwaMashu’s Sifiso Majola, to say “thank you” to all the teachers, friends and the audiences who have contributed to his dancing career. Personal quotations about dance and his life were projected onto a space on the cyclorama or he would speak them.

Majola’s African contemporary style includes stylised Zulu traditional dance as well as physical theatre. Solos are mixed in with duets performed with Siyabulela Mbambaza with whom he works at the First Physical Theatre Company in Grahamstown.

The final, Makanya’s “God’s unspoken words”, carried the powerful and relevant that the church has many divisions, but one God. These divisions were beautifully contrasted and questioned through the use of red lighting which was used a few times. Red, in the biblical sense, could be seen as a reflection of Jesus’ red blood that unites all who believed. The recorded woman’s voice at the end of the piece explains this.

After the voice, all the dancers dance in unison reflecting the unity that the narrator mentioned, however, the movements are still fast and using expansive arms, which dominate the movement vocabulary throughout the piece.  The costumes were African Christian clothing either worn or suspended.

All in all, it was an entertaining and thought provoking evening. All three works had a different ambiance, style and message.

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience