The cast of Somewhere, out there, life was screaming
Photos: Val Adamson
First published in The Star Tonight
By: Adrienne Sichel
When dance companies from two different countries collaborate across geographical and cultural lines there are two possible outcomes. Either an imposed mish-mish or an organically sound creation.
Then there’s the third, riskier, option: a work that pushes every conceivable button in its creative processes that the stage detonates with intention and invention. Somewhere, out there, life was screaming, co created by Joburg’s The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) and Reunion Island’s Danses en l’R! falls into this category.
It took nine years before FATC’s PJ Sabbagha and Danses en l’R!’S Eric Languet realised their wish to work together. When Somewhere ... premiered at the Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival last month their joint creativity, fluid visions and the obstacles they encounter as dance-makers running companies were evident. Making art, or sustaining a professional dance company either in Africa or on an Indian Ocean Island (which is part of France) is far from easy. All those frictions and tensions astutely inform this sensory onslaught which pulses with visceral intelligence and corroding physicality.
How this piece, which dovetails as installation performance, was made in a crossed residency between St Gilles and Joburg, in the past months, is a case study on its own. FATC not only swopped homes – from Wits University to the University of Johannesburg – midstream but the cast changed. Two weeks ago Nicholas Aphane left FATC and Thabo Kobeli had to step in at a very advanced stage. The performers are Reunion’s Mariyya Evrard, Soraya Thomas and FATC’s Thami Majela, Ivan Teme and Kobeli.
Given that the five dancers are not only co-creators of the performed material but they have, as part of the choreography, to manipulate projected visuals (created by sensational French artist Elie Blanchard), this was no mean feat. Interactivity is key: for example Teme transposes the projected triangular imagery into his body. A central theme is how the individual is affected by structures, order, symbolised by a pyramid which occurs either as an object, in a pile of sand, projected symbols or on video.
The anarchic tone of this hour-long work choreographed by Languet, assisted by Sabbagha’s directorial eye, underpins what is in essence aesthetic cartography which maps ingested ideas, reveals secrets, blasts ideologies. Fabrice Planquette’s excellent sound score; Elie Blanchard’s video and design elements and Thabo Pule and Mandla Mtshali’s lighting, conspire with the vocabulary which is embedded in personal reactions and interactions. The strategies and exercises Languet used to source this choreographic material are not unfamiliar but the intensity of how it is realised gives it an authentic spin.
The collaborating artists rupture physical and psychic space with a bombardment of imagery and texts – verbal, physical, visual and performed - which tend to explode or implode. Mariyya Evrard is a pivotal figure. As a mainly catatonic outsider her stillness, her detachment, provides a measure for the chaos erupting around her.
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming, which is part of the France-South Africa Season, demands not only to be viewed but listened to and perceived. The bodies in frantic motion, or in silhouetted repose, mercurially shift between the real, the surreal, the realised and the imagined.
Soraya Thomas, Thami Majela and Irven Teme in Somewhere, out there, life was screaming
System overload: reclaiming individuality
By: Bronwyn Botha
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming is collaboration between dance artists from two countries and cultures. The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) based in Johannesburg and Danses en l'R from Reunion have come together to create a socially conscious piece which explores the idea of individuals who find themselves trapped in systems and restrictive structures.
Danses en l’R’s Eric Languet, with input from FATC’s PJ Sabbagha, found the inspiration for this work through the economic theories of Adam Smith and by looking at a post-apartheid society whose promise of equality seems to be a myth; instead we live in a society driven by money and possessions.
The stage is dark with a small pyramid on the floor. The object comes to be a representation of the levels of class in society which emphasise the inequality of people. This same triangular shape emerges throughout the piece, projected in various formations on the back wall or seen in the vast pyramid of sand that is broken down and reconstructed again several times.
Mariyya Evrard approaches the pyramid, pausing and staring out into the dark. She circles it saying nothing. A recording of a man speaking is heard as Thami Majela enters. I catch a few words like wealth, stock and riches.
As more performers enter the stage they each continue doing their own thing. Irven Teme plays with the heap of sand, Thabo Kobeli clings to white feather boas while Soraya Thomas changes into different coloured dresses and follows other dancers perhaps in attempt to find somewhere to fit in.
The dancers take turns to play with triangular shapes creating various pictures that are overlaid with the video art by French digital artist Elie Blanchard. Fabrice Planquette’s multi-layered score was created during the rehearsal process.
The music builds with the gestural, at times jarring and at others fluid, movements of the dancers. I catch a bit of sign language, contact work and repetition.
Teme speaks of “nothing being no thing, yet something comes from nothing”. The playful use of words, speaking in circles gives the idea of being trapped. We see the struggle within each dancer as they break their routines and then fall back into them. There is an anxiety on stage; the intensity pulls me in as I remain alert.
Moments of intensity arise with the screeching of the music causing feelings of discomfort in the audience. One dancer shouts to be heard. He speaks of democracy being a good thing, the best political system and states that the minorities are left behind by the system and are at the bottom of the pyramid.
Evrard, who has been silent and detached throughout the piece, starts to move frantically pulling on her jersey in an attempt to cover herself entirely, the music builds and screeches but her piercing scream cuts through it.
The frantic build-up subsides as the music becomes more tranquil and the video shows grasses waving in a breeze. The dancers come together for the first time, dancing in unison, suggesting that they’ve found a place which feels comfortable to exist.
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming is a work that left me a little confused, with more questions than answers.
Irven Teme and Thami Majela in Somewhere, out there, life was screaming
Screaming out loud
By: Thobe Molefe
Intrigued by a small pyramid centre-stage and a light projector to the side, I sat in my seat and anxiously waited for the performance to begin. The pyramid represents the imbalances in our society; those at the top have more than those at the bottom. Trapped in systems and routines, the dancers in Somewhere, out there, life was screaming tackle these issues and try to find alternatives for the lives they lead.
Dancing without listening to each other depicts society where democracy exists on paper but not in theory. The work comments on the fact that if somebody wants to be heard, they will have to scream as everyone is occupied with themselves.
The innovative use of technology is mind-blowing. Fabrice Planquette mics the dancers and the score, created during the rehearsal process, is textured and rich. The dancers’ sounds interact and clash with the music. Digital artist Elie Blanchard creates a playground fertile with live projection colliding with recorded images on the back wall.
Technically astute, the dancers are a visual delight with quick, fluid floor-work and elements of breakdance.
Dancing in unison at the end, after various solos, duos, trios and disconnection from one another, there seems to be a message about a willingness to break out of structures and create a democracy in practice. It is an eye-opening piece not only because of the subject matter but also for the crossing over of dance, language and technology.
Soraya Thomas and Irven Teme in Somewhere, out there, life was screaming
Complexities and Collaborations
By Caitlin Perkins
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming was created by Reunion Island’s Eric Languet (Danses en I’R) in collaboration with South Africa’s The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative, both of whom focus on creating politically-charged and socially- challenging dance theatre. The piece tackles themes relating to socio-economic systems, and how individuals, through circumstance and choice become trapped within such structures. It explores the effects that this destructive cycle has on the individual, our relationships and society as a whole.
Shapes, symbols and scenic devices are the words that come to mind when trying to describe this work. The symbol of a pyramid runs as a central theme within the piece, an image that seems to represent the idea of social hierarchy and order, and which references issues such as democracy and equality which are explored within the work. The iconic pyramid symbol is represented in numerous ways throughout the piece – as a projected image, a pile of sand, and as a physical prop on stage. At different points in the performance, other shapes (which carry meaning in themselves) become the focus, such as a circle and a set of straight lines.
What is particularly impressive is the performers’ abilities to embody these representative forms in their dance language. When the pyramid shape is the focal point of the performance, the dancers’ movements become angular and geometric in quality; their moving bodies a symbolic illustration of the shape. In the same way, the performers skillfully embody the spherical qualities of the circle, and the elongated directness of the lines.
One of the most exciting elements of this complex piece is the projected images that are created live during the performance by French digital artist Elie Blanchard. A camera on stage allows the dancers to manipulate projected shapes, which are then overlaid by Blanchard with abstract images and symbols. In addition to this, the hard-hitting original sound score by Fabric Blanquette, adds to the chaotic tenor of the work.
In his programme note, Languet aptly sums up the emotional rollercoaster experience that encompasses this piece, describing how, as things begin to spiral out of control, “…life, in all its anxiety-producing chaos begins to call… and even to scream in order to be heard.”
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming is an innovative and multi-faceted work which brings together art, music and choreography to make a powerful comment on the restrictive nature of social systems and structures on the individual.
Thami Majela in Somewhere, out there, life was screaming
Control strangles democracy
By: Prosperity Shange
A small pyramid is placed centre-stage; as the lights die out, Mariyya Evrard enters silently, stops and stares down at it. A sudden change of atmosphere is experienced as Thami Majela enters with a stereo in his pocket; a voice is speaking about economics. Irven Teme enters with a heavy bag of sand which he lays on the floor and attempts to build a sand pyramid. Soraya Thomas sits at the front, motionless.
Majela attempts to interact with Evrard, positioning her in relation to the pyramid and draping a microphone over her body, which she shrugs off, while moving the pyramid back and forth in the space. Thabo Kobeli caresses white feather boas, which start to unravel scattering across the stage.
Somewhere, out there, life was screaming is a collaboration between The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) from Johannesburg and Eric Languet’s Reunion Island-based company, Danses en l’R. During Languet’s visits to South Africa, he was overwhelmed by the ultra- liberal orientation of the country, where individual’s behaviours are guided by the pursuit of profit and interest, where people are choosing money and how it has affected their being, their humanity.
The work seeks to address the issues that arise from profit-seeking behaviours which have a profound effect on society as a whole; it explores the nature of the systems and institutions which are not human-friendly and are conducive to havoc and destruction in society. Some of the dancers are helpless – Teme tells us that his entire life he was told he was nothing, and yet he realised that in nothing something could happen and in nothing he exists.
Thomas tries hard to confirm with those around her and looks for approval - she keeps changing her dresses, trying hard to be accepted. Evrard remains disconnected, lethargic and is easily manipulated; the others control the way she sits, where she stands, when she moves. Kobeli attempts to impose his ideas and feelings about democracy on Thomas.
The detail in the work was well-developed, with incredible live animation by digital artist Elie Blanchard and an original sound-score by Fabrice Planquette, both of whom worked alongside the dancers in the rehearsal space.