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the chairperson of the National Arts Council, the arts and culture minister, or any politician, venture on to the National Arts Festival’s dance Fringe, they would easily see what all the sustainable arts funding fuss is about.
Established companies of at least a decade old, the calibre of Joburg’s Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) and Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT), Pretoria’s KMad.Com, Grahamstown’s First Physical Theatre Company and Cape Town’s La Rosa Dance Company, will be proving their artistic and developmental mettle.
On the Arena, Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company presents Southern Exposure, showcasing resident choreographer Lliane Loot’s Skin, a searing solo danced by Lerato Lipere in which the skin of a young black female “becomes the embodiment of hurt and violence done to women”, and her mapping nostalgia.
This group work, created with the dancers, resonantly engages with history and autobiography, and the biography and legacy of the South African poet Ingrid Jonker. The politics of the past infiltrate the present, framed by the violence and beauty of memory.
The Grahamstown cast is: Sifiso Majola, Julia Wilson, Lerato Lipere, Zinhle Nzama, Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo and Tsediso Kabulu. Jabu Siphika and Sifiso Magesh Ngcobo have left the company.
At the recent 2012 Durban Dance Awards on May 22, Khumalo and Lipere scooped the male and female dancer honours, with Wilson recognised as the Breakthrough/Newcomer. Madala Kunene and Mandla Matsha were honoured for their services to dance.
The bitterly ironic mapping nostalgia, which premiered in Durban in March in South-South with Liz Lea’s A Free Mind, a tribute to struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, hot-wires memory as it taps into the arteries of our political and artistic history.
The programme note guides the way: “mapping nostalgia is a work that comes out of long-held social and political dreams and hopes that I think many of us as South Africans may still have; of a politically debilitating nostalgia for an imagined egalitarianism. This dance theatre work is my own spiritual and physical mapping not just of dying dreams, but of what was hoped for and promised in 1994 – that magical year full of promise.
“It maps a landscape of inclusion and exclusion and of a social reality that still ‘others’ – male to female, black to white, local to foreign, rich to poor…”
Adding another dimension is the original music composed and performed on stage by regular Flatfoot collaborators Maskanda marvel Madala Kunene and percussionist Mandla Matsha.
The music and musicians are integrated into the score, which includes a reworking of Nkosi Sikeleli’ iAfrika, Bob Marley’s Africa Unite and the speech given by Nelson Mandela when he opened the first democratic parliament in Cape Town on May 24, 1994. The president famously hailed Jonker as both an Afrikaner and an African, both an artist and a human being.
The movement language is not without the choreographer’s signature holistic quality and line but at times these qualities are intrinsically distorted and fragmented. Dramatically articulate Flatfoot newcomer Lipere beats her body with frustration.
Another equally impressive Flatfoot new arrival, Wilson, whose dancing has a luminous quality, pays representative homage to the persona of Jonker.
This is first done in a quartet to the recording of Madiba’s parliamentary speech, “The time will come…”, in which he eulogises the politically conscious poet who wrote Die Kind (The Child) following the Sharpeville massacre.
This speech also explores who has the right to be called African.
Earlier, at one point, all six South Africans are trapped in prisms of light, suggesting citizens trying to break out into the new democratic dispensation.
And finally, Jonker/Wilson are imprisoned by their gender and their whiteness.
The movements have a jagged, quality, fuelled with emotional anguish and pain.
A seemingly innocent act of the men carrying on to stage a wooden bench transforms the ambience of the work. The women remove the soft shirts from the seated men, shrouding their heads.
The sinister hooded figures radiate a faceless brutality. Their body language contorts into authoritarian malice.
These masked men are a pungent metaphor for the current dehumanising state of gender and power relations in a country swamped by rape and violence mainly, but not exclusively, towards women and children.
Embedded truths ambush the viewer’s consciousness, ousting any vestige of sentimentality.
• Southern Exposure: Centenary Hall, July1-3.
• VDT’s Mayhem (Luyanda Sidiya’s Umnikelo and Gregory Maqoma’s Mayhem): Gymnasium, June 28-30.
• First Physical’s Villain, choreography by Sonja Smit: Nun’s Chapel, June 29- July 6.
• KMad.Com’s I am an African, choreographed by Supa Zunga: Victoria Theatre June 30-July 3.
• La Rosa’s Bernada, directed by Geoffrey Hyland: Centenary Hall July 3-7.
• MIDM’s Signatures (acclaimed Dance Umbrella 2012 works: Sifiso E Kweyama’s The More…, with a new score by Neo Muyanga, and Fana Tshabalala’s duet Gates of Hell): Centenary Hall July 5-7.