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NAF DANCE (article first published : 2006-05-28)

A gypsy femme fatale and a real life Don Juan are among the fascinating figures vying for the headlines on the main dance programme at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from June 29 to July 8.

The dangerously irresistible gypsy heroine immortalized in opera takes centre stage in Carmen the ballet, choreographed by Veronica Paeper with the full Cape Town City Ballet company and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra conducted by Naum Rousine. Georges Bizet's original music for the popular opera has been arranged for the ballet by Michael Tuffin. The principal dancers are Marianne Bauer and Coert Grobbelaar alternating with Lara Turk and Lee Fennell.

The famous heart surgeon and ladies' man, Professor Christian Barnard, also seemed to have been irresistible to many members of the opposite sex. He is the central figure in I of Heart by choreographer Samantha Pienaar. Setting Craig Morris amid a troupe of nine female dancers, she contemplates the nature of compassion. A great scientist makes world history in his efforts to save human lives while remaining apparently oblivious to the hurt he is causing on an emotional level. The spoken text is drawn from Barnard's own poetic writings.

Another ardent plea for compassion, this time for the environment, comes from choreographer Gregory Maqoma in his Beautiful Us. He performs with six dancers from the Vuyani Dance Theatre Company and together they articulate the extensive vocabulary of African dance into a new aesthetic syntax in Sequences of Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial arts dance).

An adrenaline rush is promised by Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Hlengiwe Lushaba. She celebrates the dancer in every body (including highly unconventional bodies) with a new conflagration of her powerful choreographic imagination. Orthodoxies go up in smoke before the hot talent of this multi-award-winning enfante terrible.

Fresh offers a mixed grill of short pieces by four sizzling young choreographic talents. Lucky Kele's Bosol (Prison) comes out of his experiences running dance classes at Boksburg prison. The protagonist is an ordinary chap who fell into bad company and has landed up behind bars. Nelisiwe Xaba's Plasticization is a razzamatazz of startling and playful imagery taking the mickey out of our artificial world. People who enjoy Robyn Orlin also revel in Xaba - it's no surprise to learn the two have worked together extensively.

In Quicksand, Durban’s Siyanda Duma confines four dancers in a claustrophobic space with their arms bound. They communicate via awesome footwork and a closed circuit camera. Another creative energy from Durban, Mlu Zondi, uses dance, text and live video in Silhouette for a whirl with male/female interactions and the clichés of African masculinity/femininity.

Demonstrating that dance in Africa down the ages has always been exciting and evocative, The Healing Dance is an Eastern Cape collage staged by Skin Sipoko with artistic direction by Daluxolo Papu and Xolani Sibuta. The evocative sounds and movements are drawn from the ancient rituals of many tribal groupings. The 40-strong company of performers includes veterans of the art and young spiritual dance apprentices.

More dance treats feature on the Fringe programme where established names and feisty newcomers help to make the National Arts Festival the preferred destination for adventurous dance lovers.

Further details in the free Festival Booking Kit which is available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za

The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council are the proud sponsors of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.




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