By: Arno Wagenaar
It was a phenomenal opening for the 15th JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience at the Sneddon Theatre last night. From an eye-opening speech from artistic director, Lliane Loots, speaking to and creating awareness around the lack of interest in funding contemporary dance in South Africa, to the two most fascinating performances; B.L.E.N.D – choreographed and performed in collaboration by Desiré Davids (South Africa) and Hélène Cathala (France), and THE KING IN EXILE – choreographed by Francisco Camacho (Portugal).
The clarity of the theme in last night’s performances was visible, with each performance tackling its own set of struggles, politics and histories. Grabbing the audience’s attention with breathtaking images, Davids and Cathala combined their skill sets to display two very different cultures blending together in creating a friendship, an understanding, and an extraordinary dance performance that was unforgettable.
The journey started off with both performers dealing with their own identities, and struggling with their individual histories with a unique, yet simple image of essentially dividing the space with a cable extending from the speaker, cutting through the center of the stage. After a showcase of their individual styles, they break the division by stepping over the line and exploring each other’s space, and so too, each other’s history, politics, and culture.
Francisco Camacho stunned the audience with his bravery and incredible dance techniques to elevate the history of Portugal, and narrating the inspirational tale of Dom Manuel II, the last king of Portugal, with his contemporary-styled dance routine in THE KING IN EXILE.
Camacho authenticates his narrative by communicating with the audience in his own language (Portuguese), yet he makes use of the multimedia platform by translating his words into English, making it recognisable and accessible worldwide.
THE KING IN EXILE expresses a personal thought and a negotiation of identity within the bounds of cultural representation and history, showing us that the personal is always political. Camacho uses powerful images of struggle and conflict with his suitcase, handcuffed first to his arm and then his foot, and a fur coat as he makes his way downstage to his ‘thrown’, only to discover the monarchy has been dissolves and the King exiled. Camacho explores shutting down voices, and what happens when politics excel power.