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Photo: Sizwe Ndingane

Working their performance around an explanation of isipantsula stand Rustenburg dancers, Via Volcano, in good stead in their dance piece Mzobane.

I caught the last performance at the City Hall in Grahamstown last night and I’m glad I did.

It’s an odd venue – wonderfully raked for dance performances, but a total cavern when the audience is small and most of the time it is. Then again, the National Arts Festival is peppered with the oddest of venues and everyone just makes it work.

For Mzobane, they use some old music, going back to the heyday of Chico Twala, Brenda Fassie and plenty of their imitators and even when the songs are soooo dated and boring, the dancing is so infectious your body responds involuntarily.

In between dancing with crates, walking sticks and each other, there is a narrator that explains the different influences – like trains – on the dance style. He drags out the narration to give the other dancers a chance to change their costumes, which drags the pacing of the show down.

But, the second they start dancing, the pace picks up.

The nine dancers are sharp and well-synchronised, for the most part with three of the dancers being slightly weaker. The three fumble various props at various points in the show, but they recover well. Overall though, the dance is well choreographed.

Though each of the dancers do get a chance to showcase their own style in the beginning, for the most part they try to create a cohesive whole, with dancers either perfectly in synch or splitting up into groups which complement each other.

A tapping sequence borrows more from the Irish style than American while the introduction of the walking stick through a sequence featuring a blind man was a bit strange, since most blind people do not use sign language.

Hand movements in the sequence inspired by alcohol abuse feel unnecessarily over-choreographed, and what was with the bunny hands? But, again, the second they simply concentrate on the dance, the enthusiasm and commitment is obvious.

The finale – featuring three different styles and costume types – is a highpoint.

If they could actually get an original score, tailor-made to their performance it would lift the entire experience a notch and create something greater than what they have at the moment which is an infectious and enthusiastic dance piece with loads of potential.


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