03 September 2013

A beautiful and terrifying past

By: Arno Wagenaar

As part of the first ever JOMBA! @artSPACE (Durban) , three live acts at last night’s site-specific performance  at the artSPACE (Durban) ABANGUNI choreographed by Musa Hlatshwayo (Mhayise Productions - Durban), SUICIDE: at six years old choreographed by Vusi Makanya (Dusi Dance Company - Durban), and SWAN, performed and choreographed by Misato Inoue, took the audience through a journey of identities and histories.

ABANGUNI began with a creative display  of singing, dancing, campfire, and traditional food. This piece is an epilogue to Haltshwayo’s recent Nguni trilogy, which comprised of Dayimane!, uZulu noQwabe and Aba(ka)Ntu. After performers served fruit, mielies, and sugar cane, the flourish of a drum beat announced the beginning of an exploratory journey into the past of the Nguni people.

SWAN also added to the theme of identity, as Misato Inoue introduced her piece with a struggle to find her way from underneath sheets of white paper covering the entire dance space. She made her way through the struggle by tearing through the paper to reveal her face. Her  pained movement told a story of struggle and infinite possibility.

A shift of the chair brought the audience’s attention to a collection of dance films from the 60secondsdance.dk online annual Screendance competition. Each film artist had 60 seconds to share their interpretation of the word ‘weight’. It was impressive to see what these artists could achieve in 60 seconds, and how a simple word like ‘weight’ can transform into a fascinating, yet meaningful piece. It was  the simplicity of the work that gave raise to questions, leaving the audience thinking about what weighs us down.

While the audience pondered on these questions, the final piece concluded with ‘your past is not always what determines your destiny’.  SUICIDE: at six years old was based on a concept by Thobile Ethno Lady-Bass Ntuli and the abuse she had to go through from childhood leading up to the present. In a blood red dress, she narrated her struggle as a child to the audience accompanied by a contemporary dance piece  performed by her fellow dancers. This was an excellent way of concluding the night of site-specific performances, with the powerful message that if we can leave the pain and terrifying past behind, we can focus on the future.

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience