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AFRICAN EAGLES & UGLY DUCKLINGS (article first published : 2005-04-19)

The Playhouse Company is reviving its Disability Arts Programme this season, first introduced in 1995, by showcasing works from schools for disabled children in and around Durban. An exciting development will be a performance by local dance group LeftFeetFIRST, of Who Says, The Ugly Duckling? – presented in collaboration with young people from Klub Vest in Copenhagen. The production is supported internationally by the Danish Centre for Cultural Development and the Danish Cultural Institute, with local support by the Open Air School in Glenwood.

LeftFeetFIRST Director Gerard Samuel wrote and choreographed Who Says, The Ugly Duckling? which toured Denmark and Hungary in October 2003 and March 2004 respectively. The production is a children’s theatre work in dance that calls on the skills of a group of some 20 performers, set to a music soundtrack interspersed with narrative. It explores the idea that discrimination comes in many guises, both overt and insidious, the departure point here being that discrimination against people who are different or ‘other’ wither because of their race, gender, sexual orientation is abhorrent. The fairytale of the ugly duckling destined for the far side of the pond who one day finds herself all grown up and turned into a beautiful swan is the central theme for this light-hearted production.

Complementing the performance of Who Says, The Ugly Duckling? in this New Stages presentation are 10-minute dance works by the Kwa-Thintwa School for the Deaf in Inchanga, and Schola Amoris School for the Intellectually Disabled in Umzinto. Schola Amoris has chosen a piece entitled Special Star, danced to the home-grown hit song of the same title by Mango Groove. This highlights the need to recognize the ‘shining star’ in each of us as members of a global family.

The performance theme chosen by Kwa-Thintwa, entitled Wake Up Call, highlights the importance of health and sanitation, including issues such as the need for water purification, and the control of cholera. The medium of mime is a vital element in this performance by deaf children. Their dramatisation has helped deaf learners to overcome barriers of communication and to understand important health aspects of life, at the same time teaching the community sign-language. The project’s tutor is dancer and choreographer Mduduzi Mtshali, who extends his passion for dance for all, so that the “ugly ducklings” may soar as “African eagles”.

Admission is free for this production, which is to be presented in the Playhouse's Loft theatre on April 30 at 10h30. Members of the public who wish to attend the performance should call Smangele Mbeje on 031 369 9463.




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