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BEWITCHED, BOTHERED & BEWILDERED (article first published : 2001-10-17)

Boyzie Cekwana, David Gouldie, Sifiso Kweyama, Lliane Loots and Jay Pather are names to be reckoned with. Theyíve made their mark on the local, national and international dance scene and between them, have amassed an impressive amount of cutting-edge dance programmes.

While the choreographers and their companies Ė respectively, Floating Outfit Project, Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, Phenduka Dance Theatre, Flatfoot Dance Company and Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre Ė work closely and often interact in the local dance field, they have never collaborated in one single work.

Spurred on by the difficulties and challenges of survival and the void of performance brought about by uncertain government sponsorship, these creative minds have produced a South African first in terms of collaboration Ė five choreographers and five dance companies - in Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered. Facilitated by FFFDCís artistic director Mark Hawkins and presented under the identity of Dancers Co-Op, this hour-long uninterrupted work probes the human condition of love and plays for six performances at a church hall in Greyville.

So, what - when they usually present their works at the Playhouse Drama or Opera, Elizabeth Sneddon or Square Space theatres - are they doing in a church hall? The idea is to create the first of many such collaborative seasons working in non-theatre spaces.

First off, letís look at the venue. Okay, so itís a church hall. But not just any church hall Ė itís the beautiful, historic and newly-renovated St Maryís Church Hall. Situated conveniently close to one of Durbanís most popular nightspots, Bean Bag Bohemia. Itís a beautiful space for dance with its elegant lofty roof and beams that cast interesting shadows.

The 14 dancers involved all come from different backgrounds and dance styles but in Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered they perform with a unity that speaks volumes for their commitment and dedication.

The work is broken up into pieces punctuated by a change in music and style but the overall mood is jazzy and funky rock with the informal setting like that of a rehearsal studio: dancers are dressed in working gear, they sit out on the benches alongside the walls and often interact with the audience.

There is no main theme or storyline, as it were, and no real beginnings and endings Ė one piece flows into another as dancers leave the performance area while the focus is directed to those entering it. Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered is like a necklace of semi-precious stones, the overall image is colourful and the stones are buffed to form a similar shape but each stone has its own depth, layers and character.

The dancers also perform to poetry in works by Musa Hlatshwayo, Justine Loots, Alice Walker and William Shakespeare. Songs come from Carol Trench with a sultry jazzy number while Nellie Rushualang gives a gentle a capella piece.

There is an academic level to the work as well and dance aficionados will have a fascinating time trying to work out which choreographer has done what. Itís not always easy to identify Ė the five distinctive styles are there but while they havenít compromised themselves, they have melded into one pleasing whole. The work is fun, quirky, sultry and dramatic.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered runs at St. Mary's Church Hall in Windermere Road from October 17 to 19 and again from October 24 to 26 at 19h30. Tickets R30 at the door (R20 students and pensioners on Thursdays) or contact Peter Taylor on (031) 209-0142.

This season has been made possible by Production Projects, XPR and BASA.




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