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ACTS OF LOVE UNDER A SOUTHERN MOON (article first published : 2005-05-12)

Acts of Love under a Southern Moon presented by Flatfoot Dance Company opened this evening at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. The new full-length dance theatre work explores “notions of love and being in love against the backdrop of South Africa's history”. This means it covers a wide range of emotions – lyrical, romantic, searing (occasionally horrific) - but the strong message that comes across is a passionate sense of survival generating from a deep-rooted love of the country.

The choreography is in the distinctive style of Flatfoot’s award-winning director, Lliane Loots, and is inspired by a journey she made to the Karoo to visit Helen Martins’ extraordinary Owl House.

“As important as being allowed to look into the work and life of Helen Martins,” she says, “was the landscape that surrounded this journey. Acts of Love under a Southern Moon is the physical and spiritual journey of a lost South African soul searching for her metaphoric Mecca.”

The stage is bare, the costumes are red and white and Clare Craighead and Mark Kleinert’s clear and focused lighting adds to the impact of the evocative visual installations by Doung Anwar Jahangeer.

For some time, Flatfoot has incorporated text and poetry into dance works and, up until now, I have not always felt that the text “score” is at one with the dance. In this production, Quincy Fynn, Nathan Redpath and Iain Robinson weave themselves as an integral part of the process with their word rhymes, repeated phrases and original sound. From a chilling poem describing murder and rape to a love poem or an ironically amusing look at a journey through the Transkei, the threesome provide a movable “orchestra” contained within their spaces of light. The text is often wryly confrontational and one of their remarks - “How come honesty’s a rarity?” - was very telling!

Most moving was Lliane Loots’ narration of the work which focused on the visit of the wandering albatross and its return to South African shores every nine months.

I was impressed with one piece where the male narration insisted “This will never happen again, I promise. I love you,” – an obviously empty promise as the female dancers were constantly being “knocked down” as their trust took yet another blow. This developed into a scenario where young boys were dressed as girls by their Gogo (grandmother) to disguise them as a protection from those who were recruiting new blood – not matter how young – during the rural violence of apartheid KwaZulu-Natal.

The hardworking Flatfoot Dancers Marise Kyd, Caroline van Wyk, Thulile Bhengu, Musa Hlatshwayo, Sizwe Zulu, and Lenin Shabalala put in fine performances. It was only as he limped onto the stage for the curtain call did I realise that Musa had injured himself which undoubtedly explained why his performance lacked his normal blazing energy.

Acts of Love under a Southern Moon runs until from May 10 to 15 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and from May 19 to 21 at the Hexagon Theatre, Pietermaritzburg. Tickets R40 (R25 student/scholar/pensioner) booked through Computicket. All performances are at 19h30. – Caroline Smart




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