Revisionings of the body

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TO Detours embracing

The word detour suggests venturing into unfamiliar terrain. In that spirit, the Detours festival, subtitled Re-routing Movement Composition and with a mission to provide “alternative platforms of experimentation and expression”, is running for three weeks. Co-curators Jane Crewe and Joni Barnard set out to inspire “a revisioning of the body in performance”.

Programme 1, in the Wits Ampitheatre, selected by a panel including colleagues Gerard Bester, Jennie-Lee Crewe and Bailey Snyman, scored with mixed results. Second and third year Wits movement students and graduate Joe Teffo put concept into motion with their voices and bodies in Barnard’s playful colour-coded, task-based Move a Side.

Sibikwa Arts Dance Company’s Freddie Zwane’s Unnatural Presence #4 began on an intriguing note. His costumed body daubed with ochre clay, joined by Melusi Mkhanjana (ex Vuyani Dance Theatre), Rosie Nqaba and Nosifiso Mtaung, in defence of being an artist, Zane lashes out about being called a sphoko (a ghost). What follows is a primal, sculpted rite of primal passage by contemporary Africans in search of their physical and spiritual identities. This ensemble then unravels into the messily melodramatic and touristic. Strong dramaturgical input could rescue Unnatural Presence #4.

Similarly, Mmakgosi Kgabi’s A Day in the Life of a Narcissus would benefit greatly from editing and restraint. On the pretext of getting ready for the theatre, Kgabi preens and postures in mirrors. Her cellphone rings and Joni Barnard’s voice intervenes with advice about using props (a settee and a coffee table).

Then the music dies and the audience sings You’re so Vain as the performer partners up with the furniture. Stanislavski meets Greek mythology meets an urban warrior woman in this under-designed piece pulsing with potential.

The second half brought an altogether more focused, crafted creation. Movement therapist Gina Holloway Mulder, collaborating with Rayzelle Sham, unleashed Embracing Kerberos – Moving and Voicing to Heal Anger. Entering the amphitheatre, the audience is diverted to step on to the stage (clad in red, bordered by metal water-filled gutters) to receive warm honey cakes from Mulder.

The performance, which “integrates voices, body and psyche”, begins as Mulder feeds the cakes to Kerberos, the mythological three-headed dog which guards the gates to Hell.

What ensues in this embodiment of anger, fear, angst, frustration and emotional purging is an amalgamation of movement therapy with physical theatre dynamics. It’s a do-it-yourself decoding of Jungian symbolism as the two women connect through their voices and orchestrated physicality. Imaginative design underpins this ritualistic work which rigorously experiments with kinetic theatricality and indelible imagery as it traverses choreographic comfort and discomfort zones.

Serendipitously, this Wits initiative was preceded by two landmark performances which perfectly fit the Detours “revisioning” brief. Athena Mazarakis’s residency at Goethe on Main gave birth to Standing By, a seminal reflection on, and reaction to, the epidemic of rape in SA with a focus on corrective rape of black lesbians; assaults, and murders.

These site-specific aesthetic manoeuvres ingeniously unleash the debilitating psychological and physical paralysis induced by the fear or reality of violation. In a country where a woman is raped every 26 seconds, this is paralleled with the apathy or inaction of prejudiced political bystanders and the public. Mazarakis’s war games (with toy action figures, video projection and live video) culminate in a memorial of names inscribed on black tape which cordons off and dramatically shrinks voyeuristic viewing space while indelibly impregnating perceptions.

In her Beauty Tips, Tshwane Dance Theatre’s Kristin Wilson, in partnership with photographer Rob Mills, unmasks the body beautiful. This gem of a digital dance piece, dripping with caustic irony and conceptual wit, becomes a bizarre striptease as projected images are distorted and layered on real bodies.

The recorded text underscores topics such as anorexia, bulimia, pubic waxing, Botox (on children) and obsessive plastic surgery.

It’s a visual and intellectual chorus line for the senses.

• On Saturday at 10am, 9th floor University corner, Prof Esther Haeusler presents Mirrors & Windows. Download the Detours programme at facebook.com/#1/groups162435967212894/


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