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THOUGH Jazzart Dance Theatre turns 40 this year (Sonje Mayo opened Jazzart in 1973 as a dance studio specialising in modern jazz dance) money is tight so any significant celebration has to take place on the stage.
Hence, this forthcoming performance of Waiting for the Rain, which Jazzart artistic director Jackie Manyaapelo says signals a rebirth of sorts.
Just as we use ritual and ceremony to move from one space and time to the next, the ritual of reimagining a specific dance piece was about transforming the dance theatre group, said Manyaapelo.
Because the dancers had changed over the past two years – this particular performance was first presented in 2011 – they brought a different story and interpretation to the piece.
“It starts to shape itself in this way, they bring what their bodies can do,” explained Manyaapelo.
This time around they were using their 15 trainees and the five permanent Jazzart dancers.
Redoing Waiting for the Rain was an opportunity for the newbies to build on and add to Jazzart Theatre’s repertoire: “Reproducing something from a recent time helps to hone the style,” she said.
The dancers perform to a live soundtrack composed by Tandile Mandela and Mthwakazi (vocalist Bongiwe Lusizi) and the performance takes its cue from both a ritual call to the ancestors and spirits in the form of the indigenous instruments plus the concept of creating rain in the context of society and not waiting, but getting up and doing.
The musicians interact with the dancers, at one point walking across the stage as if they, too, are members of the community.
“They do more than just provide the background, Mthwakazi is part of the scene. She’s the grand diva in the ball scene, part of the community,” said Manyaapelo.
While the piece was originally created by Manyaapelo, Mziyanda Mancam and Ina Wichterich-Mogane, dance teacher and choreographer Christopher Kindo has also put his stamp on the piece.
His role has been that of ruthless editor, cleaning up and restructuring the piece, as well as working on the lighting.
Right now his main role is teaching the trainees, who are in the second year of their three-year programme with Jazzart, but already he is thinking ahead to early next year when he will have to create something new for Jazzart.
In the meantime though, in addition to the performance of Waiting for the Rain, Jazzart Dance Theatre and Artscape will present an exhibition depicting the company’s growth over the years in the Artscape Marble Foyer next month.
• Waiting for the Rain, Artscape, from Friday to September 15.