03 September 2013

Artful tradition

By: Caitlin Goulding

An open fire brings warmth to the Durban evening, as do the smiles on the faces of audience members, dancers and the performers who come around to offer fruit, sugar cane, mielies placed in their husks and traditional beer.  This was the welcoming of Jomba! at artSPACE.

The traditional singing of the Abanguni performers reach you first, guiding you to where they sit dressed in traditional Nguni clothing.  The atmosphere is warm with a real sense of community and ease amongst the performers that spreads to the audience, as the performers chat amongst themselves and to audience members.  Traditional song, dance and storytelling showcase traditions of the Nguni tribe in a very non-traditional space.

This live performance art installation, choreographed by Musa Hlatshwayo, finds itself surrounded by metal fences and barbed wire.  The dancers’ white painted bodies almost blend in with the concrete floor that they perform on.  They move with athleticism and fearlessness as they fall back onto the unforgiving floor without flinching.  The audience is lead into the gallery, where more Nguni traditions are showcased.  Certain visual images used in the performance serve as links to Hlatshwayo’s previous works, his trilogy on Nguni identity, to which this piece is an epilogue.  Some of these images are included in the beautiful display of Val Adamson’s photography of previous dance works.

Misato Inoue performs her solo piece, Swan, in which she explores the emotions linked to the colours of black and white.  The white is a large sheet of paper and the black is the clothing she wears.  In her dance she explores feelings of panic, fear, pain and despair associated with black using frantic movement, while the white is a safe place where she can hide, innocent and pure.

Vusi Makanya’s Suicide: at six years old is a dance theatre work that deals with the dark topic of child abuse.  Using dancers and a narrator the piece tells the emotional story of a severely abused child.  A powerful piece,  it unfortunately loses some of its effect due to the limited space in which it was performed as some audience members struggled to see the whole performance.

Not just a night of live performance, the evening included dance films as part of Jomba’s collaboration with Screendance Africa.  The collection, put together by Jeanette Ginslov, included Vulnerability by Ndoli Kayiranga, uValo by Akona Matyila and the ten top one-minute films from 60secondsdance.dk, which used the theme of weight and what it means to the dance filmmakers.  These one minute pieces all showed different, creative ideas.  Some saw their weight as a heaviness, while others appeared weightless or fighting against their weight.  The Screendance films got to show a different form of dance and added to the beautiful evening of art at artSPACE.

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience