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THE ORION PROJECT (article first published : 2003-05-21)

FNB Vita award winning choreographer Lliane Loots is well-known for her innovative dance works – stretching the members of her talented Flatfoot Dance Company to the limit and exploring thought-provoking themes and issues. Her latest production, The Orion Project, is currently running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. She describes the work as her most personal to date, being “about grace and finding forgiveness – for oneself and for all the collective paths in our history.” She looks at “re-writing myths to navigate personal and political narratives of understanding so that we can begin to make sense of so much violence, betrayal and corruption.”

Basing her text on Jeaneatte Winterson’s version of The Orion and Artemis myth in her novel Sexing the Cherry, she includes two fairly hefty slabs of narration. The first was uncomfortably long and its poetic nature would have been better served broken up with movement. A later section tells the horrific story of a white girl working for the struggle who is hideously abused in dentention.

While requiring strong control and fluidity from the dancers who move with a detchment on the white dance mat as if they were indeed creatures of the gods in a kind of outer space, the first section sees the theme over-explored.

Then follows a spirited male-female dance dialogue in which Welile Tembe and Musa Hlatshwayo acquit themselves well in solo observational debate. I wish we could entice Welile away from her political science degree and back into the arts where she truly belongs and Musa proves that he has justly arrived as one of the city’s top dancers. He has an excellent foil in the ever-graceful Seren McMurtry who partners him in a section towards the end of the show.

The production moves to conclusion as Lliane examines the often fairly turbulent journey from Mandela’s inauguration to present day, posing the question “What will history make of tonight?”

Mervyn McMurtry’s set involves attractive and ethereal panels of cheesecloth and I particularly liked the use of the cloth to create the imagery of the salmon swimming upsteam. The fascinating video installation by Virginia MacKenny and carol-anne gainer does much to create strong atmosphere and Julian August’s lighting is superb.

I was unhappy with the sound tape that wowed and fluttered the national anthem to represent, I presume, the state of the nation and the sense of violence, betrayal and corruption Lliane talks about. Unfortunately, this was not achieved and it ended in a cacophony of noise without creating a distinct process – a pity because the idea is good.

I don’t believe that the The Orion Project has reached completeness and there are several sections that need to be reworked. Once that is done, the piece will be one of the most powerful to emerge from the KZN dance world. I do suggest you see it – it has many moments of brilliance and provides a good chance to see the Flatfoot Dance Company performing at their best.

Performances take place from May 20 to 24 at 19h00 in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Tickets R30 (R20 students). Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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