"Our art is not worth nothing", stated JOMBA! Artistic Director Lliane Loots in her poetically powerful and profound opening address which set the tone for the evening and the next two weeks.
Entre-Deux (In Between) choreographed by Clarisse Veaux and Abdou N'Gom aka Stylistik, hip-hop dancers and founders of French company Compagnie Stylistik, was the opening performance of the 13th annual JOMBA!Contemporary Dance Experience. This solo performed with extreme fluidity and focus by N'Gom, begins in almost darkness which heightens the aesthetics of the animalistic and ritualistic way in which he moves on the ground.
With his back to the audience, N'Gom articulates movement using his back muscles which are remarkably expressive in terms of the absence of his arms and face. It was a clear depiction of being torn "in between" - a dual inner struggle that he eloquently expresses. Throughout the performance N'Gom is in deep turmoil which becomes highly Fanonesque when he begins to plaster his face with white strips. The striking image speaks a thousand silent words, and maybe more, as he simply applies the plaster to the mould of his own face. This becomes the climax of the piece: his black skin in a white mask.
The next work Buanattitude by break-dancer extraordinaire Junior Bosila Banya (B-Boy Junior also known as Buana) was of a deeply personal nature. Not as aesthetically enticing as the first piece of the night, it is highly confrontational and interactive which gives it an edge. Junior ‘swims’ through the waterless stage throughout the performance, often breaking to connect with the audience who seemed enthralled and appreciative of this honest and emotionally weighted performance.
He appears relentless and charismatic and deliberately warms up the audience with his comic qualities. Moving in and out of music, we see him journey through gunshots of rejection even before he arrives at his ‘hometown’ (in the Congo) questioning the notion of 'home’. With Buanattitude, Junior takes a direct approach by speaking about polio which left him with a problematic leg that he has made not so problematic. Buanattitude sees this magnificent break-dancer showcase his extraordinary skill - but not without purpose.
Buanattitude and Entre-Deux are repeated at Jomba!, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre tonight, September 1, at 7.30pm. This double-bill moves to Johannesburg’s Arts Alive 2011 festival under the banner of Hip Hop Explodes, at the Joburg Theatre Fringe on Sunday September 4 at 6pm.