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EDGE (article first published : 2003-04-13)

If you’re interested in contemporary dance and want to see some very exciting, thought-provoking and interesting work – then make sure you make a date for Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre’s latest season in the Playhouse Drama. Presented in association with the Playhouse Company and the National Arts Council, Edge celebrates new dance, fashion and video art.

There were two fashion inserts. Declarations featured designs by Warren de Villiers, Helen Baxter, Sibonelo Ndlovu, Shannon Coyne, Heather Bowie, Kumar and Reena Sathiakumar and Ayanda Maphumulo. In the second half of the programme, we had Dreamers with designs by Andrea Killian, Shannon Coyne, Nirma Madhoo, Ayanda Maphumulo, Lisa Lunn and Martine Ellison. The designs were presented in an attractive theatrical format and all the garments, particularly some of the men’s fashions, showed innovative creativity.

Exploring a darker side, video artists Thando Mama and Jan-Henri Booyens offered challenging and often unsettling pieces. Thando Mama’s Back to Me incorporated an interview taking place on a television set onstage while his face in close-up whispering comments played onto the back wall. Jan-Henri Booyens’ work hinged strongly on technology, including some spine-chilling graphics and drawings comparable to those of the inimitable William Kentridge.

Video technology was used to good effect as a back-drop for one of the most exciting works of the evening – Siyanda Duma’s Quicksand where four “straitjacketed” dancers gave a moving portrayal of entrapment, aggression and vulnerability.

Durban can be extremely proud of award winning Ntombi Gasa and fellow Siwela Sonke member Neliswa Rushualang. Last year, they were invited to present their choreography in Grenoble, France, and it won’t be long before their respective international lists of credits begin to grow.

Ntombi’s was the first piece of the evening, the stirring With the Help of Angels. Here the cast was drawn from the company’s rural dance development project funded by the Netherlands Embassy.

Neliswa’s beautifully-presented Veil explored the impermanent state of marriage and lighting designer Richard Parker’s creativity was at its best in this piece.

Eric Shabalala’s volatile Façade dealt with emotional relationships and Hlengiwe Lushaba created the multi-layered satirical and highly amusing The show’s not over until the fit fat phat lady sings.

The final piece, Dirty Laundry, by Samantha Wright was another fascinating and multi-layered work. It included delightful choices of music and touches of humour and delight while offering much food for thought. Andile Mngadi’s dramatic and vocal talents were put to good use and Samantha herself made a surprise appearance from within a rubbish bin!

Apart from the opportunity of seeing already established dancers put in performances of a very high standard, it was exciting to observe the talent coming to the fore from the less-experienced dancers. It was also a satisfying evening, enjoying the technology of the beautiful but recently very under-utilised Drama Theatre being put to its proper use. Mention must be made of Welile Tembe who was a charming, engaging and articulate host. We need to see much more of her on stage!

All in all, an exciting evening for dance lovers. But what else would one expect from a director such as Jay Pather who challenges boundaries with such consummate ease?

Don’t miss Edge – there are performances next week from April 18 to 20 at 19h00 (Sundays at 15h00). Tickets R25 and R20 (concessions) booked through Computicket or Dial A Seat on 031 369 9555. There are three performances available for schools from April 15 to 17 at 12h00 at reduced rates for block bookings. – Caroline Smart




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