05 September 2014

Watch with me. Listen with me. Feel with me. Give me a taste.

By Chris Tobo 

Stories and crates are stacked and unstacked in a powerful dance work from choreographers Sonia Radebe and Jennifer Dallas.
Moving Into Dance Mophatong’s (MIDM) Sonia Radebe and Jennifer Dallas of the Kemi Contemporary Dance Project  present Ngizwise, a stunning collaboration between the two choreographers and four MIDM dancers. 

It begins with the dancers, (Oscar Buthelezi, Teboho Letele, Sunnyboy Motau and Muzi Shili) casually moving plastic crates around the stage before they strip down to don a pair of black dancing pants. 

As the house lights fade and the mood shifts, two dancers begin to pull the audience into a tense atmosphere as high-stacked crates are swapped back and forth in a painstaking exchange. 

An air of gravity and sanctity persists: the combination of slowed, muscular movement and Letele’s drowsy music score regularly create the impression that time has slowed down. The effect is riveting.

This kind of gravity is tempered by lighter moments, such as when the four dancers regress before our eyes and the stage becomes their playground.

These playful moments lend a poignant glow to the difficult, visceral work the performers engage in, as they communicate personal histories verbally and physically. 

They move with astounding ability, their bodies melting, rippling and twisting in startling ways.

Costumes by Veronica Sham are used to striking effect: Among the work’s most indelible images is an elaborate crowning ceremony, in which a dancer’s head is wrapped in a majestic cloth by his fellow dancers before donning a beautiful skirt and ascending a stairway of stacked crates. 

Momentarily, all of the dancers are in skirts, moving and touching in intimate contact beneath the gloaming lights of a pair of twin towers. 

Watch with me. Listen with me. Feel with me. Give me a taste. The Zulu word ngizwise could translate into a number of things in the English language, but the personal and confessional elements in the work (dancers sing, recite and testify throughout) points to the theme of bearing witness to a shared recollection and humanity that, like the work, is beautiful in its complexity.

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