KRAZY FOR KENJI
A bare stage. Two bodies. Dimly lit, they crouch with their backs to the audience. Power and strength emanate from every angle, even in their stillness…. but then… they begin to move.
The precision with which Didier Boutianaa and Shany Arzeux merged the seemingly different styles of hip-hop, break dance and contemporary is something that continued to amaze me throughout their performance. Choreographed by Kenji of Reunion Island’s Soul City Crew, Haine Terre Rieur tells the story of two men’s experiences as they journey through life, sometimes together and sometimes apart, but somehow always alone. The idea for this, his first choreography, formed in Kenji’s mind whilst he was in France and felt detached most especially from his family, from his roots. On many levels the piece deals with his quest for reconnection to his origins and, in bringing \this work to JOMBA! he shared some of his own journey with a Durban audience.
Filling the auditorium with the sounds of Reunion, Kenji divided the choreography into a series of mini-narratives encompassing both duets and solos. His dancers displayed what I later termed“acknowledgement” of each other’s bodies evident in the amount of trust they invested in each other during some of the most intense pair-work I have ever seen onstage. The performance itself began with a series of small, often gestural, movements which very clearly portrayed two struggling men who gradually started to make use of aspects of contemporary and break dancing as one style.
There were moments where I simply marvelled at the ideas Kenji had used to elevate his choreography to another level, or at the skill displayed by the powerhouses who claimed the stage of the Elizabeth Sneddon for their own. One such moment was when the stage was immersed in complete darkness until, out of nowhere, Boutianaa and Arzeux began to manipulate tiny lights in each of their hands. The effect was fascinating: lighting just enough of their bodies for the audience to recognise their contorting shape and form, or else, manipulating the lights to form a wash of orange glows in various patterns.
At other times, where the music and dancing served to transport me, I found myself close to tears during both of the dancer’s solos. The first solo was danced under UV light with the dancer’s white pants highlighting the powerful movement which so effectively captured the warrior-like atmosphere of the music as it reached its crescendo. The other solo saw the dancer completely blindfolded and dealt with issues of abandonment and longing, tangible due to the repetition of the phrase “Mother, why am I alone?” in French.
Haine Terre Rieur was a most remarkable piece of work. Knowing that this was his first choreography for the stage, I firmly believe that we can expect great things from an artist as young, and already as exciting, as Kenji.
>> Reunion choreographers Kenji (Cedric Saidou) and Norton Antivilo will premiere A Contre Sud their collaboration with Durban dancers on September 11 and Sunday 12 September at 7.30pm on the double-bill with Daniel Renner’s “Soulscape” created with the Flatfoot Dance Company and B-Boy guests.