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HOME (article first published : 2003-11-7)

Jay Pather’s latest dancework Home is being presented in the Durban Art Gallery. This is a considerable work – all of one hour 20 minutes without interval – and comprises nine pieces, each strongly eloquent and self-sufficient in its own right but forming an integral part of Home as a whole. Either taking their chairs (provided by DAG) with them or sitting on the grass mats on the floor, the audience moves with the performers from the main foyer through two other gallery spaces, taking in various scenarios in each area.

Playground, with its offbeat swing, upended seesaw and slide introduces us to a lonely, serious character (Vusi Thabethe) who only finds rest at the very end of the production. He is jollied along by a vigorous guide (visiting guest artiste Vaibhav Joshi from Mumbai) and we follow them as they move through the sequence of items.

Kitchen features a large Christlike figure on a cross (Denton Douglas) and a silent seated stolid woman (Ntombi Gasa) who only becomes active towards the end of the piece. This item is notable for the utterly riveting partnership of Neliswa Rushualang, becoming more focused and acquiring stronger dramatic skills every time I see her, and Siyanda Duma who is fast making a name for himself in dance circles.

In Hostel, Mdu Mtshali depicted the cramped, soulless living quarters of these complexes accompanied by a gentle visitation of three veiled ladies as he dreams of feminine contact. The exquisite Shiksha Rampatha made a dramatic entrance in the satirical Chandelier which she performed with Vaibhav Joshi. Eric Shabalala and Neliswa Rushualang offered much playful delight with Doors. Here again, Neliswa shone in a completely different character to the sombre and fervent woman in Kitchen.

Hotel was undoubtably the most dramatic piece of the evening and involved much highly energetic movement, particularly from Denton Douglas who impressed with his helplessness of the character. Ntombi Gasa came into her own in this piece which pushed her dramatic ability to the fore. Sifiso Majola played an ominous veiled character which carried through to Lounge where he was joined by Mdu Mtshali as two blind hollow-mouthed spirits. Siyanda Duma gave another impressive performance in Lounge.

Most of the scenarios are enacted in front of images presented by video artistes but in the main I found these distracting. The only one that worked for me was Greg Streak’s eloquent Home without Walls which complemented the action without trying to tell its own story.

While Home is exacting for the dancers as their audience is virtually right on top of them, it allows dance lovers to get “up close and person” with this highly innovative company. Apart from representing a collaboration between dance and the visual arts, Home includes traditional African, contemporary dance and physical theatre with the added excitement of Kathak and Bharatha Natyam. Mention must be made of Richard Parker’s evocative lighting.

Home runs at the Durban Art Gallery until November 9. You should get to see it – it’s an important work. More details on 031 311 2268 or 031 307 6686. Book through Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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