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His hair is deserting him, his waistline has expanded, but Craig Morris (who turns 40 in December) has teenage schoolboys gasping at his virtuosity and strength.
Similarly, Athena Mazarakis, 40, as trim and technically proficient as ever, continues, in her solo work and her ongoing collaboration with Morris, to awe audiences with her expressive mastery underpinned by deep subtexts.
They originally began performing together as first-year drama students at Rhodes 21 years ago, toured with Gary Gordon’s professional First Physical Theatre Company to the FNB Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg in 1993, and were founder members of the professional FPTC in 1996.
The award-winning Attachments 1 to 7, a series of seven duets, was originally co-created with both of them and director Gerard Bester in 2004/2005 and completed in 2007. This bittersweet, ultra-physical love story (with that famous sofa) resurfaced at the 2013 Clover Aardklop Festival and a special evening schools performance at The Edge Theatre, St Mary’s School, on October 16.
Produced by Morris’ Untouchable Productions, Attachments 1 to 7 is a classic piece of dance theatre which deserves to be seen again and again. That’s because the inventive movement language remains intrinsically honest as inescapable truths and everyday actions like getting dressed for a date, falling in (and out of) love, sleeping and watching TV are distilled into humorous vignettes.
The original whimsy and hormonal euphoria, which fired the earlier versions, has mellowed and is replaced by a physical authority and haunting poignancy. As they embrace and dance nostalgically to Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye they are duetting with mortality as the smell (of real) burnt toast fills the air.
Think breakfast with a hint of crematorium.
Age is not an issue for many of our now middle-aged pioneering dancers at the peak of their artistry – it is something to be celebrated. When Gregory Vuyani Maqoma turned 40 on October 16 he was performing his acclaimed new solo Exit/Exist in Washington DC as part of a current US tour. Two weeks before that, his 14-year-old company, Vuyani Dance Theatre, directed by Luyanda Sidiya, presented Mwanzo… Inspire, Reflect and Honour, a retrospective season saluting this milestone birthday and stellar career, at the Soweto Theatre.
While Senegal’s Germaine Acogny, 69, and Mzansi’s Vincent Sekwati Koko Mantsoe, Boyzie Cekwana, Greg Maqoma, Nelisiwe Xaba, Mazarakis and Morris have never left the stage, Cape Town’s Debbie Goodman, a former Jazzart Dance Theatre star and co-founder of Jagged Dance (with Jacki Job), did. Fifteen years ago she quit this “addiction” cold turkey because she was dead broke.
And as she further relates in The Blood of the Young (Alfred Hinkel and John Linden’s work in progress which debuted at the recent Baxter Dance Festival), “my body was f****d”.
Although she now runs a successful business (also reflected in the choreography as she constantly takes business calls), and is the mother of two, she still craves the rush that only live performance can provide her.
Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, 43, made her impressive comeback alongside freshly matriculated Adelaide Majoor, 19, and Byron Klassen, 20, both based at Garage, the Hinkel-Linden training company in Okiep. This work was created over four days Goodman-Bhyat spent in Namaqualand.
On stage, two generations of dancers meet as their bodies, biographies and verbal narratives (in English and Afrikaans) intertwine. Their voices provide a context (and part of the musical score) for earthy interactions impeccably crafted out of their personal stories and contact improvisation.
The humour, the pain, the beauty, the ecstasy, of being a dancer in South Africa is revealed through a distorted symmetry. They meet on common ground: on, or around, a time-battered pressed wood and steel Okiep school chair which is loaded with magnetic significance, because it is also what the young dancers are trained on through Hinkel’s now iconic chair technique.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: thankfully, time is not withering these tireless dancers and dance makers who are proving that our artistic life and cultural heritage depends on them.