02 September 2010



Lauren Jones

The arrival of September not only heralded the much-anticipated arrival of some sun to Durban’s shores but the arrival of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
Audience members waited in anticipation for the opening address by Jomba’s artistic director and celebrated choreographer,
 Lliane Loots, who welcomed audiences into the “artistic, cultural and political space” we call the theatre. Assuring us that Jomba! is, in no way, a competition, Loots asked us to recognise that the beauty of the festival as marked by the mere fact that it honours all dance theatre, in any form. One would think that this makes my task, as a budding dance blogger and theatre critic, quite difficult but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In as many ways as there are to move, there are as many ways to create different works, in different styles and the opening evening showcased just that.

Choreographer, soloist and freelance artist DesirĂ© Davids’ new work is entitled Who Is This Beneath My Skin and “interrogates the… unpacking of self.” Having initially imagined the choreography as a solo, Davids later offered a rare opportunity to the dancers of the Flatfoot Training Company to be a part of her work too. The result was a fascinating exploration of the various layers which exist not only in a broader society but within the identity of those individuals who make up that society.

Various photographic still images as well as an effective use of a live feed (all created by Pascale Beroujon) from a different perspective were projected onto a box-like screen and served as a reminder that Davids was, always, attempting to peel back the layers of her own identity. By emerging from within an interesting clash of textures and materials, Davids appearance was constantly transformed and even manipulated until, eventually, she was left almost naked in a striking visual image of vulnerability. Her choreography effectively challenged the fixedness of any one identity, ensuring that we recognise that no one appears as they truly are and, thus, no one is truly as they appear.

The next two works were commissioned by the festival itself beginning with Durban-born Sifiso Majola’s I Thank You, tying up quite significantly to Loots’ opening address where she reminded us of the Grotowskian notion of the “service” or “gift” that a performer gives to an audience. The work, a duet with fellow First Physical Theatre Company dancer Siyabulela Mbambaza itself read almost as a visual motivational book with Majola’s life, and lessons learned, at the forefront. The choreography was interwoven with both boisterous music and absolute silence but for beats that the dancers created with their bodies, as well as a comedic and brotherly exchange between the two men onstage. The end result was a choreography clearly steeped in his own experience and magnified upon the stage with a simple “thank you” to those teachers and fellow dancers (also represented in projected images), friends and spectators who each aided him, in some way, on his own journey.
Vusi Makanya’s new work, God’s Unspoken Words, was an attempt to recognise “how the church has changed in South Africa; how power and money are often put first before the needs of the community”. From curtain-up, the choreography appeared steeped in tradition and ritual, from the two-tone or plain white costumes (denoting religious robes) to the interplay between the apparent roles of the men and women. Noticeably the pace of the piece was constantly increasing until, just before a breathtaking crescendo which had the audience on their feet in applause, the stage became completely still. A young women’s voice filled the auditorium and, just like that, Makanya’s work was contextualised: the divisions which have been so relied upon in this country need to come to an end if we, as the people of one God, must unite and become one for the greater good.

The JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience has begun. If the three works from last night are anything to go on, the rest of the festival is set to entertain, inform and connect people through the absolute beauty that is dance.

1 comment:

Kivi said...


Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience