Get a child in need a pair of shoes for free
Halfway through its performance run at the National Arts Festival, Gregory Maqoma’s latest dance piece, Mayhem, received the first Ovation nomination of this year.
This particular award system looks at Fringe performances and awards excellence, specifically innovation, and original and creatively outstanding work.
While the entire performance is called Mayhem, the first half of the programme is actually Luyanda Sidiya’s Umnikelo (Offering), which displays the trademark Vuyani Dance Theatre fluidity and inimitable African identity.
This lyrical sense of movement is, of course, courtesy of choreographer and company founder Maqoma, who manages to combine rigorous classical technique with African ritual.
In Umnikelo, dancers invoke an exuberance of spirit that feeds off the emphatic beats and intoxicating music courtesy of the Jaiva Ensemble.
The exhilarating energy is contained by precise movement, dancers anchored by Mpumi Nhlapo’s insistent percussion.
The second half features dancers in a mental asylum, twitchy and trying to break out of the confines of their bodies and the physical space.
They’re all but climbing the walls, out of sync with one another and themselves, yet totally in tune with the performance.
Maqoma says they chose to bring this particular piece to the festival because some of the Vuyani Dance Theatre members are from the Eastern Cape, which makes the performance particularly embedded in the region.
Also, he “wanted to bring quality to the Fringe”, he says.
Maqoma is on a mission to reassert Vuyani Dance Theatre at the forefront of SA dance and he’s not going to let funding challenges or a lack of commissioning theatres stand in his way.
Their projected international programme stretches into 2015, which speaks to a well-cultivated presence overseas.
“I wish we had that in South Africa,” says Maqoma drily.
Still, he points out that there is hope on the local front, having booked a performance slot at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town for next year.
“We need to collaborate more closely with theatre spaces to push up our visibility.”
Next up, the Vuyani Dance Theatre will collaborate with Swiss-born French trumpeter Erik Truffaz, who will be out in Joburg for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in August.
It’s an idea Maqoma and Truffaz have been working on for a while, but first Maqoma will be collaborating with Dada Masilo on a duet, In Creation, commissioned by the Festival d’Avignon, this month.