In the interest of full disclosure I have to confess I am a Lliane Loots fan, and have been since I (very naively) walked into my first contemporary dance lecture a few years ago. I have always been drawn to dance, but had never been exposed to contemporary dance before. It wasn’t until I placed my play-dough mind in Loots’ gentle and capable hands while studying contemporary dance during my UKZN days, that my passion and love for contemporary dance was ignited. I was hooked immediately. Since then, I have made it my mission to absorb as much as I can about this performance style which I adore. Fandom aside though, as I don my professional cap, I have to admit there is very little (if anything) to critique about Flatfoot Dance Company’s delicious offering at this year’s JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival, HOPE.
This is not the first time I have seen HOPE. I first saw (and fell in love with) the work last year when it was performed at the Playhouse during the Women’s Month Festival. I have seen this performance twice, and I cried. Both times. This is a piece which, although quite out of character for Loots whose work traditionally reflects “the dissident social and political voice”, is an absolute treat and left me feeling rather emotional.
To me, this performance is like a dandelion. The last one left in a field, and try as I might to protect it from the wind in a bid to preserve its beauty and magic, I cannot. So too, this performance, try as I might to relish in every moment and take in its beauty, flashed past too quickly for my liking. I was left in somewhat of a tailspin as it drew to a close and the audience rose to its feet to pay tribute and give gracious thanks to all who played a part in creating this masterpiece. The courage of a performer and choreographer to lay bare the most vulnerable parts of themselves – their hearts – for all to see on stage, is always a humbling and emotional experience for me. That we, mere strangers, some critics and some fans (gulp), might be allowed a glimpse into the delicate fabric which makes up a person and their life, is something which ought to be cherished. Always.
Flatfoot dancers, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson, Zinhle Nzama, Sifiso Khumalo, Tshediso Kabulu and Sifiso Majola are masters of their craft. Their performances were faultless. To see a group of performers so in control of their bodies, taking the utmost care and precision in every movement as they cut through the air and lights on stage, was breath-taking. What struck me too was their gentleness, love and adoration for each other on stage, not only physically in carefully shifting weight between bodies and sharing a space, but so too sharing their stories of love, heartbreak and yes, hope. The performers bear witness to their stories, both in real time and in the clever use of video installation (created by Karen Logan). So too, the audience bears witness to these stories and identifies in the tales told by the performers. We are reminded that, regardless of personal circumstance and individual choice, we all have the capacity to love and in that, “HOPE reminds us that our love relationships are the very fabric of our daily lives and as such becomes part of the deepest sense of understanding ourselves”.
Just as the performers exhibited precision and absolute love for their craft, so too pianist Shannon Hope, with her hauntingly beautiful voice and piano added depth to the performance. To separate the dancing from the music and vice versa, would render both meaningless. The seamless manner in which live music and dance have been woven together in this performance is noteworthy. The performance flows faultlessly, with both performance styles supporting the other, neither trying to dominate nor claim glory – both are treated with respect and love. The delicate lighting design (courtesy of Wesley Maherry) further layers this performance, creating a softness on stage.
HOPE is a phenomenal performance which is sure to leave even the biggest sceptic of love with (excuse the horrendous cliché) that ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’. You have one more chance to catch this performance tonight at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 7.30pm. And if my earlier gushing leaves you questioning my objectivity in critiquing this performance, then take the words of my plus one who, until last night had never heard of Lliane Loots, or Flatfoot Dance Company or JOMBA! (“JOM-what?” he said) or even seen contemporary dance: “Wow,” he said. “Just wow.”