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BHAMBAYI DREAMING (article first published : 2000-05-6)

A dance theatre production, Bhambayi Dreaming performed by the University of Natal Durban's Flatfoot Dance Company, is dedicated to Stanley Blose. Former head of the ANC Youth League in Bhambayi, he was one of main movers behind the peace negotiations in this area which was and is torn apart by violence. Stanley Blose was killed about two months ago in what was perceived to be a politically-motivated shooting,

University of Natal drama department movement lecturers Lliane Loots and Chris Hurst worked closely with Stanley – Chris firstly, with a video project in which Bhambayi residents became their own storytellers and later with Lliane when they held dance classes on Friday nights at the local clinic. When the violence turned the area into a battlefield and the clinic became a safe house for residents’ precious possessions and furniture, the dance classes had to be curtailed. It is still unsafe for both residents and teachers to re-instate the classes.

Bhambayi Dreaming has been written by Lliane Loots and choreographed by her in collaboration with the Flatfoot Dance Company. One of the performers, the beautiful and focused Nosipho Nyawo, is a social work student doing her “prac” work in Bhambayi. She helped Lliane produce the slides which make up the third section of the work. There is no music other than that which the performers produce themselves in terms of song and narration. The latter, also written by Lliane, is concise, sensitive and poignant.

Bhambayi Dreaming tells the story of two 10-year olds – one black and one white – performed by Mbongiseni Patrick Buthelezi, a drama student who has just been accepted into the famed Laban dance school in London, and Deirdre Atkins a former student and Flatfoot member appearing as a guest artist. Producing clearly-defined performances, both dancers are a delight to watch.

The work is split into three: the first is titled Sevenhead and deals with a young boy growing up in Bhambayi. Living with his grandmother - a gentle and strong portrayal by Lulama Mabovana, joint winner of the FNB Vita David Coleman award last year - he tries to cope with and understand the violence that erupts around him. He learns to “recognise the smell of tear gas and knows he will not live to be tall”. His brothers, portrayed by Delimfundo Mabena, Sikhumbuzo Mbuthu, and Musa Hlatshwayo, handle the energetic moves with discipline and control. Providing the grace, colour and charm of Indian classical dance as the residents of the Indian houses which fascinate and intrigue the boys are Trishana Thotharam and Kimendhri Pillay.

Unfortunate, the title of the second part, is a name given to the young white girl by a bitchy neighbour in reference to her curly “almost krissy” hair. “Unfortunate” lives a life of fear. Fear of the night, of her parents’ constant fighting, even of ballet class but ironically it is to her that her younger – and straight-haired – little sister “Fortunate” (Seren McMurtry) turns for comfort. Together they have some tender and emotive scenes. Supporting them in childish garb are Ceri Williams, Shannon Culverwell and Caroline van Wyk and in standard township type school uniforms are Zama Ndokweni and Zinhle Gumede. Nosipho Nyawo plays the part of Elsie, the enigmatic maid.

The full company appears in the third section titled Bhambayi Dreaming: 24 August 1994 which opens with a series of slides of the area depicting township taxis, rubbish, various styles of architecture, phone booths, vendors and the clinic which used to host the dance classes. The two youngsters, now grown, meet and tentatively explore each other’s space eventually reaching out to touch, communicate and connect.

This is a production well worth seeing. It has performances in the Square Space Theatre on the UND campus at 19h00 until May 9 with free lunch hour performances on May 8 and 9 at 12h15. More details and directions on how to find the venue from (031) 260-3134.




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