08 September 2010



Samantha Daly

There are few things in this world which leave me speechless, but Johannesburg-based Moving into Dance Mophatong’s (MIDM) collaboration with celebrated poet Lebo Mashile at this year's JOMBA! Did just that! 

Choreographed by MIDM artistic director and legendary choreographer Sylvia 'Magogo' Glasser, in association with dancers Muzi Shili and Sonia Radebe, Threads explores “gender relationships and cultural and artistic identity”.

To begin to describe exactly what makes this piece so brilliant is simply an impossible task. Perhaps it is the magnificent way in which Mashile's voice, and the beautiful, yet potent and thought-provoking poetry (mostly specifically composed for this collaboration) fills the air, washing over the audience like a wave of insight and inspiration as she declares “I believe the soul is crafted by this terrain. We are fashioned by the fragile balance between love and pain”.

Or, perhaps it is the way in which Mashile actually becomes part of the dance, as she accompanies the stunning MIDM dancers in certain movements and stylized tableaus. Perhaps too, it is the incredible lighting and set design, compliments of Declan Randal, which presents a visual depiction of the 'threads' of the title, connecting one to another and thus reinforcing Mashile's words “We are minute fibres of the same string...when your thread breaks, do you piece it together or do you fight change?”

In fact, perhaps, what makes this work so successful, is the combination of all the above mentioned performance elements, and the flawless manner in which they are presented to the audience, like a gift, intangible as a memory yet as pertinent and important as knowing right from wrong.

As chief choreographer, Glasser does well to integrate the poetry of Mashile with the dance and movement so as not to make it look fragmented. In this way, Mashile's words support the action on stage, and serve as a narrative or guide through the treatment of serious social issues, which lie at the core of the performance.

In one instance, the dancers depict an abusive relationship between a man and woman, representing a husband and a wife, which Mashile supports with her poetry “My father has no words for his love, so he plants them with his hands”, going on to note the dilemma and tragedy which goes with the emasculation of men in the workplace, declaring he is “a man at home and a boy at work”.

This scene, in particular, is harrowing as the performers become more and more violent with the handling of the dancer (Thandi Tshabalala) being 'abused', Mashile's voice becomes louder and louder - her words permeating the barrier between the audience and stage, and so too the consciousness of the audience.

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