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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

BELOW THE SURFACE (article first published : 2003-03-21)

Currently running until March 22 at 19h00 in the Square Space Theatre is Below The Surface presented by the Flatfoot Dance Company which is hosted and housed by the Drama and Performance Studies Programme on the University of Natal Durban campus.

This highly innovative company has been making waves on the Durban dance scene for several years under the artistic directorship of award winning choreographer Lliane Loots. Flatfoot Dance recently received project funding from the National Arts Council (NAC). Together with the support received from the Drama and Performance Studies Programme, this has enabled them to become a full-time initiative with 10 dancers.

Below the Surface is the first production of the year and is made up of three new works by Lliane Loots, guest choreographer Gerard Samuel (of LeftfeetFIRST), and first-time choreographer and Flatfoot dancer, Sphelele Nzama. It stays firmly within Flatfoot’s philosophy of making socially aware dance theatre work that engages their own context as South Africans.

If this is his first venture into the choreographic field, then Sphelele Nzama impresses considerably with Cokamile - My mother’s name. The programme notes state that “Cokamile” means “stand out” and this work is notable for its subtleties and the poignancy of a single mother teaching her son to be a man. Performing with Sphelele were his mother Ongezwa Mbele and his nephew Ngebo Nzama. Two new Flatfoot dancers in the making, I would say!

Lliane Loots’ Dancing in the Dark incorporated both humour and tension, working with the elements of the inhalation and exhalation of a dancer’s breath. The only other sounds are the feet against the floor and the physical connection of the dancers’ bodies. Lliane Loots, Garth Naudé and Welile Tembe skilfully explored the theme of “what happens when you watch dance in the dark?”

Guest choreographer Gerard Samuel, well-known for his work in the Playhouse Company’s education and development department and now working independently, has created Awaiting Islands in which we see the rest of the 10-member Flatfoot Dance Company: Seren McMurtry, Marise Kyd, Suhana Gordhan, Ntokozo Mthethwa, Wesley Maherry and S’fiso Ngcobo. Reference to the programme notes sees it speaking “of the disconnection – triggers of numbness – that dislocate our lives and hopes.” It impressed with its many layers which offered much scope for exploration from this tight-knit and well-disciplined company.

My only complaint is that the production is underlit and, while effective, the spotlights placed at floor level were intrusive and sometimes blinding, making it difficult to pick up performance nuances.

Try to catch the last couple of performances. You’ll be rewarded with an excellent programme. Tickets at the door. – Caroline Smart




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