Photo: Val Adamson
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Beat through my soul
By: Thobe Molefe
Lying on the floor, looking up at the sky as though they are numb to the world, a man appears, sweeping the floor around the scattered bodies. Until a beat is heard and the bodies become animated, twitching involuntarily. Alive Through The Music, seen at the JOMBA! Fringe, is a work created by the 031 Floor Assassins and embodies their passion for their craft.
Dressed in black with half of their faces painted white with red markings and the odd splatter on an arm or leg, the BBoyz demonstrated their skill in bringing ‘street’ dance onto a stage in a well-crafted and structured choreographic work. They managed to adapt the form, while keeping a playful, simple narrative and retaining the excitement of breakdance.
Elements of contemporary dance were carefully integrated, resulting in slower phrases, giving the audience time to savour their technique and skill. There several group routines with opportunities for individuals to break away and perform short versatile solos.
Using the device of a small boom-box on stage, each dancer jostled to choose a piece of music and performed a send-up of it. There was humour and laughter in their performance showing a strong group dynamic which allowed the audience to glimpse into their daily lives.
The Floor Assassins delivered their performance with honesty and open-ness. Their passion for music and the beat that inspires them, combined with flair and breath-taking tricks, was an explosive opening number on the Jomba! Fringe programme which set the tone for an evening of high-quality dance works.
Bonwa Mbontsi in TestifyPhoto: Val Adamson ___________________________________________________________
Bearing witness to his history
By: Caitlin Perkins
The Jomba! Fringe festival is a platform which offers emerging choreographers and dancers the opportunity to showcase new works, talents and ideas to a diverse audience. This year’s Fringe played host to a range of works of an exceptionally high standard, which kept the audience captivated for the duration of the evening.
One of the highlights of the programme was Bonwa Mbontsi’s personal and moving solo piece, Testify. This visually intriguing work interrogates the concept of manhood, and what it means to be a man in our South African context today - a context fraught with gender violence and burdened by the HIV/Aids epidemic.
The curtain rises to reveal what appears to be a sacred space – bundles of white fabric mark out a circular area, and in the dim, smoky light we see a tin bath placed at the back, as well as something tied up in a black plastic bag. The bag slowly begins to writhe, evocative of a pregnant womb, and the sound of a crying baby fills the air. As the crying builds to a climax, a figure breaks free of the bag and emerges covered in white powder, a child born of history and of the earth.
Attached like an umbilical chord to the performer is a ball and rope chain, evocative of a burden that he’s destined to carry through life - his culture and gender. Quietly swinging in the corner, is a suspended man’s suit suggesting perhaps the expectations placed on the dancer by society and by himself.
As the piece progresses, Mbontsi moves repeatedly to the basin to wash the white powder from his face and body - a ritual cleansing as he makes the decision to choose a life-path separate to the one he has inherited. At one point, he snatches the suit from the air and drowns it in the bath.
To the soulful lyrics of Johnny Cash’s Hurt, the performer liberates himself from his shackles, his dance language becoming freer and more athletic, displaying his skill and technique as a dancer.
As the lights fade, we are left with the image of Mbontsi balanced precariously on the edges of the tin bath, witness to his struggle as he edges the container forward with his toes inch by inch. The image strongly suggests the inescapable cultural baggage of one’s ancestors that hampers the pursuit of manhood.
Testify is an engaging piece of dance theatre that is rich in imagery and storytelling, and is testimony in itself to the promising talent of this young artist.