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JOMBA 2001 OPENING NIGHT (article first published : 2001-08-25)

What promises to be another exciting festival of contemporary opened on Thursday night with JOMBA 2001!, running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until September 2. (See full daily programme in separate article)

Each year FNB Vita commissions two established choreographers/dancers to perform their work at Jomba!. This year’s recipients are the controversial Robyn Orlin and the internationally-acclaimed Vincent Mantsoe. The Centre for Creative Arts offers grants to local companies and their choreographers to create and premier new work at the festival. This year, the recipients are the Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company (David Gouldie); Flatfoot Dance Company (Lliane Loots); Phenduka Dance Theatre (Sbonakaliso Ndaba and Sifiso Kweyama) and Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre (Jay Pather).

The opening night of Jomba! featured three works: High Art by Siwela Sonke; tri by Fantastic Flying Fish and Motswa Hole by Vincent Mantsoe.

Jay Pather is uniquely situated to bridge the cultural divide in terms of the many facets of his personal and professional capacity. This exciting mix of cultures blended with an adventurous and often humorously cynical outlook results in fascinating dance pieces. High Art is no different. The most memorable aspect of the piece is the use of a video camera which captures the movements of the dancers and plays it as a moving backdrop behind them. Thus the audience gets to see their performance in 3-D, as it were, as they dance in front of their own images.

High Art looks at greed and power-mongering. The cameraperson (Ntombi Gasa) films atop a huge tented structure, inside which are being shown black and white moving images of demonstrations, violence and political rallies. The title is reflected in the use of a high performance art – in this case, opera – with choreography set to excerpts of Mzilikazi Khumalo’s sweeping saga Ushaka. Taking his cue from the titles of individual items in the opera, Jay Pather has produced an interesting and thought-provoking work.

In tri, David Gouldie has created a piece he’s wanted to do for a long time and it’s certainly very different from any work he’s produced before. At times a fairly vicious parody of early Afrikanerdom, it attempts to identify what makes an everyday South African stereotype. Cheryl Burger opens the work wearing a black Voortrekker bonnet but dressed as a child. Her movements with Vusi Thabethe suggest both racial conflict and abuse of women.

The three-divisioned structure is an artwork in itself, covered with everything from plastic tablecloths and lampshades to mealies and a tattered South African flag. Popular Afrikaans ballads form the background to the choreography which is provocative and unsettling yet offers much wry humour. Angela Lardant is dancing better than I’ve ever seen her do before and promises exciting work to come.

But it was Vincent Mantsoe who stole the show with his beautiful Motswa Hole (person from far away). Performing a fair amount of the time facing the back of the stage, the audience was able to see the powerful muscle play in this disciplined dancer’s back. A well-contained, spiritual and gently-humorous piece, Motswa Hole deals with the individual’s personal journey through life in which he or she gains from the past in order to benefit for the future.

With strips of cloth creating the images of fences or barriers and dipping into a pot full of water, Vincent Mantsoe made his own journey in three separate stages. He explored paths which were friendly or otherwise; surrounded himself in a circle of strips and invited those outside to join him inside, and eventually removed all barriers and, slinging the strips over his shoulder, went forward on his journey.

The festival is made possible through the generosity of the following sponsors: First National Bank, Royal Netherlands Embassy, Business Arts South Africa (BASA), Danish Centre for Culture and Development, Centre For Creative Arts, University Of Natal, and The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

NB: The four Durban dance companies mentioned above – ie Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, Flatfoot Dance Company, Phenduka Dance Company and Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre – have combined as the Dancers Co-op. They will produce a collaborative dance project at the end of October titled Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. More details from FFFDC on (031) 209-0142.




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