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CHOREOGRAPHER: Gregory Vuyani Maqoma assisted by Luyanda Sidiya
COMPOSER: Isaac Molelekoa
DANCERS: Vuyani Dance Company. Guest artists – Thoriso Magongwa, Gregory Alcan
CONDUCTOR: Matheu Kieswetter with the South African National Youth Orchestra. Guitarists: Billy Monama, Sifiso Tshabalala, Ryan Lucas. Vocalists: Lerato Moiloa, Thobela Mpela
VENUE: Joburg Theatre
UNTIL: May 11
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
Have you ever wondered what a swan from Soweto, in the classical sense, would look like?
Wonder no more. Ballet Theatre Afrikan trained dancer and international guest artist Thoriso Magongwa, courtesy of choreo- grapher Gregory Maqoma, provides sublime answers with his technical finesse on a stage which historically has presented many “Swan Lakes” and “Dying Swans”.
In Full Moon Maqoma’s flights of conceptual fancy, wrapped around a creation myth, tap into South Africa’s diverse dance lineage ranging from classical ballet to contemporary African dance.
Maqoma’s aesthetic plumage and Afro-classicism don’t ignore the Odette/Odile legacy but neither does he forget Africa’s ornithology. Herons and other wild birds dominate the imagery, via Jurgen Meekel’s projections, and in the arm rippling, torso twisting and movement.
This production, which celebrates Vuyani Dance Theatre’s 15 years of innovation and excellence, was preceded five years ago by Maqoma’s Skeleton Dry, performed by dancers and musicians on the grassy veld outside the Apartheid Museum under the African moon. The shift to the Nelson Mandela main stage, with a designed moon and an orchestra in the pit, is no accident.
This hard-won achievement, boasting Black Coffee’s imaginative Afro-futuristic costume design and Declan Randal’s razzmatazz lighting and circular stage design, also has its hazards. At the gala evening, which resembled a dress rehearsal, there were too many moments when cohesive clarity was sacrificed for empty spectacle. The next evening the 25 dancers were totally focused in both acts and all the elements gelled choreographically, artistically and theatrically.
The true narrative lies in Maqoma’s vocabulary and spatial geometry. The ethereal avian distillations of the winged deities are contrasted with the mythical war-like tribe of Act 1 when bustiers open to reveal bloody chests. Their bodies are infused with invasive undulations twitching with violent energy. In Act 2 Lulu Mlangeni is a majestic earth mother who emerges from the cobwebs of history. Her followers succumb to rhythmic synergy as they ritualistically pay homage to the universe and their African heritage.
Finally, as a pendulum swings, the African goddess is anointed with sands of time.
Isaac Molelekoa’s wildly eclectic film-style score is at its best when it is atmospheric and complexly rhythmic. Conductor Matheu Kieswetter and the National Youth Orchestra musicians from Joburg, Pretoria, Soshanguve, Soweto, Sebokeng, Klokwe, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, cope splendidly in unfamiliar territory as they also celebrate this institution’s 50th birthday. Ultimately Full Moon is a rare collaboration in which our artists dare to dream.