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IF YOU CAN create an emotional response in an audience without saying a word, and they don’t even know you, then you have done your job.
That was certainly the case with Mavis Becker choreographing Alma Viva (the soul lives) for the Teatro Flamenco Wilvan and La Rosa dancers at the Baxter Dance Festival, which was dedicated to the late Carolyn Holden.
Becker was Holden’s flamenco dance instructor. The red rose laid down in the spotlight at the end of the piece symbolised La Rosa’s name. But even if you didn’t know that the shawl hanging over the dancers throughout most of the performance and then taken down by Rosana Maya to be lovingly passed from dancer to dancer was Holden’s, the sadness touching each of the dancers was palpable.
Still, grief could not take away the performers’ love of dancing, and this exuberance was a hallmark of this year’s festival.
That and an expression of identity was apparent, like Shaun Oelf working with choreographer Ina Wichterich on You are Beautiful, which used the concept of reflection as well as the idea of what we are saying to the world when we wear a hat.
Jacqueline Manyaapelo gave the female dancers of Jazzart Dance Theatre something to be happy about in Seya (joy), which drew on Malian music and movement, while Luyanda Sidiya of Vuyani Dance Theatre debuted Makwande (in South Africa), a piece he first performed in Finland.
Makwande was as much about the evocative movement as the haunting music, with Sidiya working closely with musician Xolisile Bongwana for an invigorating piece.
Taking their cue from the Cup Song, the Yellow Glove Collective used their hands, elbows and occasionally feet to create a percussive experience.
#Barelybreathing! was more physical performance than dance as they stripped movement to its basic compositional elements and had some fun.
On the serious side, this excerpt from a larger production – which was performed at the National Arts Festival earlier this year – concentrated on the breaking down of a person to their mechanical counterpart.
This is ironic since to the spirit of the festival is about expression of humanity through movement.
Not only did Grant van Ster choreograph a technically demanding piece for the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, he also danced a whimsical duo with Oelf.
Perfect Sense for Capa was a lyrical piece, with the student dancers creating fleeting encounters, moments when everything makes sense.
In Oelf, though, Van Ster has found the perfect dance partner as they are matched in height and the way they move.
We came, we saw, we conquered was a conversation not only in words but movement, with the two effortlessly leaping on to a chair just as gracefully as they charmed the audience.