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Forget tourism, lately there has been significant artistic traffic between Mzansi and Reunion Island.
First, there was Taliipot Theatre company’s revelationary !Aia-From cave to sky and now Somewhere, out there, life was screaming is about to take to the stage. Co-produced by Joburg’s The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) and Reunion’s Danse en l’R, founded by Eric Languet, this collaborative dance theatre work is born out of a “crossed residency” between both dance companies.
Like !Aia, Somewhere…, featuring three Joburgers and two islanders, is part of the Seasons France South Africa.
Both productions involve researching various subjects and experimenting with form. While Taliipot, working with South African performers Themba Mbuli and Isaac Rakotsoane, went the paleoanthropological-meets-ethnographical route at the Cradle of Humankind, Languet has zoomed in on urban realities. One of Languet’s first impressions of Joburg today was “being in danger all the time”. His choreographic process, as anyone who saw his provocative Faux Ciel – Fake Skies at Dance Umbrella 2010 knows, is plugged into everyday life. So when three FATC men – Nicholas Aphane, Thami Majela and Ivan Teme – were working on the tropical island for a month, in June, with Soraya Thomas and Mairiyya Evrad, Languet noticed that they were constantly texting and e-mailing home. The wi-fi junkies were in the coastal town of Saint-Gilles in body only – their minds were elsewhere. And so the telephone duet was born. In a studio showing last week a preoccupied Aphane and Evrad, who takes on the persona of a mentally disabled socially challenged woman, were entangled in an organic trio involving a cellphone.
At first glance both choreographers and directors are an unlikely match. FATC’s acclaimed PJ Sabbagha is steeped in physical theatre lineage and a rigorous issue-based theatricality, dating from his days as a drama student at Rhodes University and a founder member of Gary Gordon’s First Physical Theatre Company. As a dancer and a teacher, Languet’s classical ballet roots still show. Trained in France, he was a principal dancer for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (from 1988 to 1996), where he also was resident choreographer.
His exposure to the Paris Opera Ballet and Lloyd Newson’s DV8 Physical Theatre made a lasting impact on his rebellious choreo- graphic approach. Back on Reunion Island in 1998 he founded his company Danses en l’R.
The two dance-makers first met in 2003 during Dance Umbrella when the Joburger was giving a workshop. They clicked – that physical theatre connection kicked in – and they planned to work together. It took nine years. Both choreographers use probing improvisation as part of their process and they both question the societies, and the world, they live in.
Somewhere…, which takes its title from a line out of a French crime novel, partly confronts the paradoxes of contemporary SA with its liberal policies that encroach on individuality and freedom of expression. The creative process itself has been challenged by flux.
The co-production started at Wits where Forgotten Angle, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was the resident dance company in 2011 and in May moved to its new home at the University of Johannesburg.
In addition, contracted dancers like Dada Masilo, Lulu Mlangeni and Songezo Mcilizeli have moved on and co-founder Tracey Human recently left the company.
For the moment, before a very busy touring and teaching schedule, the Somewhere… collaborators are making sure that life, as they perceive it, and making viable art, doesn’t happen elsewhere.
• The world premiere of Somewhere, out there, life was screaming opens the 2012 Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival at The Wits Theatre on August 22 at 7pm. Then: August 23 at 7.30pm, August 24 at 8pm and August 25 at 2pm. It will be performed at Durban’s Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience (September 7 to 9). Tickets: R50- R20 at the door or www.strictlytickets.com