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DANCEFORCE (article first published : 2000-04-9)

Led by artistic director Mark Hawkins and made up of former members of the disbanded Playhouse Dance Company. Fantastic Flying Fish has managed to survive as an independent entity for over a year against all odds. Much of it has to do with the energy and determination of this committed group of talented artists whose extraordinary and wide ranging versatility is showcased in their current production DanceForce. Running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until April 20, it should be seen by lovers of both classical and contemporary dance for, with FFFDC, the one style bounces off the other.

The company is privileged to have two fine choreographers in-house – Mark Hawkins himself and resident choreographer David Gouldie. The former’s wide-ranging international experience in classical ballet ensures that the dancers are well groomed in line and turnout while David Gouldie, considered one of South Africa’s top creators of cutting-edge contemporary dance, determinedly takes the company into the future, breaking all pre-conceived barriers of the genre along the way.

In fact his when the shadows of your past have finally faded performed en pointe makes a stinging comment on his perception of the falseness of classical ballet while focusing on some of the problems facing women. The sound of dripping water links them to the kitchen sink and constant washing and cleaning while a helicopter and glass shattering deals with fear, suppressed anger and the fracturing of a trusting psyche.

Far less confrontational is his work that opens DanceForce. This is a neo-classical piece titled Gaudete which is performed to mediaeval baebes in front of a highly impressive backdrop of drapes; kindly sponsored by Coastal Fabrics.

For classical ballet fans, FFFDC celebrates its first collaboration with Dudley von Loggenburg who is no stranger to Durban dance audiences. A former principal dancer of London’s acclaimed Festival Ballet, he offers his lively staging of the seldom-seen Pas de Trois from Act 3 of Le Corsaire.

Another pure classical piece is Mary Ann de Wet’s sensitive interpretation of The Dying Swan, the original version of which was choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for Anna Pavlova in 1907. But FFFDC doesn’t leave the piece there, having incorporated it into a new work The Dying Swan – A Trilogy to prove that a classical work can move with the times.

Version B is choreographed by David Gouldie to a music arrangement by David Smith. With Vusi Thabethe curled up underneath a bench as a kind of “under the bed demon” of childhood memories, Nicole McCreedy performs above him in front of a noisy standing fan with the fronds of her skirt and a soft piece of material hinting at a spirit in flight.

Choreographed by Mark Hawkins to a music arrangement by Trevor Harper, Version C is a complete send-up of the classic version. The skirt feathers are larger and longer, the movements more exaggerated. No elegant and genteel finish here. This swan (Cheryl Burger) gets shot and bleeds to death, collapsing in an ugly and ungainly manner to end up on her back like a dead beetle.

Another piece by Mark Hawkins is Jizai, first seen at last year’s Jomba! and now re-worked to a more focused and tighter form. This is a highly visual work influenced by traditional Japanese theatre representing souls in torment waiting to be freed somewhere between death and a life beyond. The full company, swathed in bandages, performs in and around billowing sheets of white fabric. Greg King’s setting is impressive as are Tamlyn Martin’s costumes.

Another first for FFFDC is a piece choreographed for the company by dance lecturer Lliane Loots. Collaborating with well-known Durban artist Virginia Mackenny, she has produced Facing South which deals with what it means to live in southern Africa today. A disturbing image of a star in flames is thrown onto the backcloth and the dancers look both backwards and forwards as they assess their geographical and psychological status.

One of the main bouquets for the production must go to the exciting genius of Danish lighting designer Lars Egegaard Sørensen. He first worked with FFFDC during Shuttle ‘99 and his return visit has been sponsored by the Danish Centre for Culture and Development. It is pure joy to see dance so beautifully and imaginatively lit.

The seven members of the company: Cheryl Burger, Mary-Ann de Wet, Leanne Heystek (formerly Bate), Angela Lardant, Nicole McCreedy, Catherine Royce and Vusi Thabethe work extremely hard during this programme and all kudos is due to them for their stamina and commitment.

FFFDC offers low-priced evenings on Mondays (April 10 and 17) when tickets are R25. Book through Computicket or phone (031)- -304-2753 for credit card bookings. Save by booking via http://www.computicket.com.




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