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ISIGQI SASEMZANSI (article first published : 2007-03-7)

The drums are talking, bru!

If you live within the vicinity of the University of KwaZulu-Natal - Howard College Campus and felt your toes and fingers tapping this evening around 19h00, then follow your instinct and get to see the real thing.

The Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre is currently hosting Isigqi Sasemzansi (which translates to mean "Rhythms of the South”), an hour or so of percussion-driven dance presented by the Flatfoot Dance Company and Woodpecker Percussionists. The piece is a collaboration between Lliane Loots, artistic director of Flatfoot, and the dancers. The glow of orange lighting on grass mats make for a simple but evocative backdrop against the effectively-lit sculpted trees in this charming venue. The change in the weather added to the enjoyment of a simply delightful evening.

The dancers are all familiar faces, sent over the years through the Flatfoot and Phenduka dance companies. We saw Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo, S’fiso Magesh Ngcobo and Nkululeko ‘Leko’ Ntombela (they of the widest smiles) in Flatfoot’s excellent Three Men in a Square Space in December. Thulile Bhengu has been with Flatfoot since 2004 and Jabu Siphika is the “baby” of the company having joined last month, after her training with Phenduka.

Moving occasionally out of the percussion line-up onto the dance space was Siyabonga Mkhombe, formerly of the Surialanga Dance Company.

Heading the percussion is Mandla Matsha, genial master drummer who recently appeared in African Footprints. If, early on in the programme, you find yourself blown away by his dexterity and speed on the drum, just wait until the finale! Apart from Siyabonga, the percussionists include Njabulo Shabalala, Siyabonga Khuzwayo and Junior Khumalo.

Well-known for creating dance theatre with a social conscience, Flatfoot decided to present a programme showing off the versatility of the company’s dancers. No complicated multi-layered messages here. The 70 minute celebration of rhythm and dance is pure entertainment and there’s a beautiful touch of role reversal at the end.

The programme includes traditional styles such as ngoma and ndlamu as well as more contemporary styles such as gumboot, Kwaito and pantsula. There’s tap dance, stick dances, dances with brooms and cool drink cans and, bringing in the big guns, an empty petrol drum. Underlying it all is a strong sense of humour and the enjoyment on the faces of the dancers – whether real or performance-driven (this is a really strenuous piece) – is infectious. All around me audience members were smiling and moving to the rhythms. Feel free to clap, whistle and shout. You’ll get a vigorous response from the dancers! Don’t miss it.

Isigqi Sasemzansi runs until March 10 at 19h00 in the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre. While bar and coffee bar facilities will be available, audiences are encouraged to bring their own picnic basket. Bookings on 031 260 3133 (office hours). Tickets also available at the door. Flatfoot Dance Company acknowledges the support of the National Arts Council. - Caroline Smart




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