PEELING AWAY IDENTITIES
JOMBA! 2010 is upon us and boy did it start off with a bang.
While the show started ten minutes late and the order of the performances had to be switched, , due to technical concerns, placing Desiré Davids work first, followed by Sifiso Majola and then Vusi Makanya, it was definitely a night that did not, or rather, could not disappoint.
I was left sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of Desiré Davids’ ‘Who is This Beneath My Skin’ after reading the programme note which sung her praises of great work and world tours. My joy and expectations, based on her dance history and experiences, were short lived as I remembered her choreographic note “…this is a work that interrogates the unpacking and unraveling of self’. This line, accompanied by the opening image of the darkness of the theatre disturbed by a glowing T-shirt which read “One Size fits all,” became a ‘light bulb moment’. Why was I giving Davids credit simply because she had done extensive work abroad? Why did I believe that overseas work sets the standard?
This act of categorizing and stereotyping, - whether based on experience, religion, or culture - is ironically what the dancer-choreographer is trying to break out of. This Is achieved aesthetically as we see her, swathed in bubble wrap, stepping out of a box marked ‘Handle with care’ The unraveling Is anything but subtle and as she Is being stripped of her white veil, which could suggest the end of her innocence, we are reminded of how we are not awarded the luxury of bliss that comes with ignorance after we have knowledge. When she tries to wear it again, it drifts away on a mobile washing line.
The projected images of an orange being peeled, red and white road signs (commands) and the live feed (videographer Pascale Beroujon was visible on stage) invites us into this ‘unraveling’ process as the dancer sheds away her ‘peel’.
As Davids scratches out the word “fragile” printed on the pieces of paper covering her breasts, (to the music clip of ‘Oohh she’s in control’) and her finally swearing at the camera, we see her stepping into her own, reclaiming her identity and breaking out of society’s mould. This is achieved along with the Flatfoot Training Company dancers who defy the status quo as their “One size fits all” T-shirts have “Yeah right!” printed on the back.
The music compilation by Liam Magner echoed the tearing, ripping and squishing of bubble wrap done on stage. Even the sound of the sticky tape pulled out of its reel to hold down the torn away piece of bubble wrap to the floor, sounded like beautiful music. I was still able to cut through the walls of my perceptions as well as reassessing my own interior battles and restrictions.
Although Sifiso Majola’s “I thank you” which recounted his history and experiences as a professional dancer from KwaMashu quite simplistically and straight forward, this work is quite abstract. The piece starts with a projection of a ‘thank you’ to his teachers and friends and a projection of Sifiso Kweyama one of the founders of Phenduka Dance Theatre.
My initial response was that this work should have then been reserved for his teachers and friends. But I quickly retracted my thoughts as Majola embarked on his ‘journey’ through dance in one of the most beautiful solo’s I have ever seen. As he sat on the floor facing the images once more, I realized that while the projections, spoken text of him echoing the projection in some instances and the sound of water filled the theatre), I would not classify this work as multi-media because these elements were not used effectively enough. However, the dances and dancers (Majola was joined by Siyabulela Mbambaza) were amazing. They are both members of the First Physical Theatre Company at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
In Sifiso’s closing words of ‘I thank you” he mentions that all things must end in pairs was prophetic as I felt vilely sick and needed to go home during interval. If last night was anything to go by, I will not allow nausea to stop me from enjoying a great evening and I shall be back at the Sneddon Theatre tonight (2nd Sept) to catch Vusi Makanya’s ‘God’s unspoken words’ in the final performance.
My only advice is to remember to bring your eye drops as there is bound to be a lack of blinking from fear of missing something.