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UKUKHULA KOMDANSO (article first published : 2008-06-26)

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) this year’s Jomba! festival offers a series of local, national and international dance theatre performances, dance workshops and conferences in Ukukhula Komdanso which explores the growth of young dancers and dance audiences.

Well-known Durban choreographers Musa Hlatshwayo, Sifiso Khumalo, Lliane Loots, Vusi Makanya and Varsha Sharma were commissioned by the CCA to premiere new work for the opening night of the festival that uses dancers all under 20 years old. The event creates a professional platform for these young dancers, expecting them to respond to the challenge of choreographic expectations in a professional environment.

Artistic director of Flatfoot Dance Company, Lliane Loots, gave an impassioned opening speech honouring her commitment to the survival of dance in the current adverse climate for the arts in South Africa. This commitment was made even more determined by the rape of a young member of one of her projects. The twelve-year-old girl was the daughter of a Mozambican father who had lived in South Africa for the past 20 years and they were both caught up in the recent violence against so-called “foreigners”. A poignant message from the little girl stated her disappointment at not being able to take part in the dance work she had so diligently rehearsed.

Last night was certainly a celebration of the talent we can expect to see in a wider context in the not-too-distant future. With the youngest performer still at the tender age of ten, all gave focused, disciplined and commited performances.

Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo’s I just want to be a good somebody explored what it means to youngsters to grow up in their own communities – wanting to learn compassion, kindness and caring for fellow human beings and ultimately becoming a “better somebody” at heart. The work featured his Khumalo’s Kids from Clermont with one young girl, Nosipho Shabalala, offering an especially expressive and intelligent performance.

Another young girl, Ruhi Maharaj, impressed in Varsha Sharma’s Time Out!!, a piece which looked at fear. Fear brought about by such issues as the high crime rate and increasing petrol prices which impact on the consumer industry, making it more difficult for families to cope and thereby often adversely affecting the stability of the family unit. Performers were Vedarsha Singh and Sandhya Pundit as the embattled adults while the child skips around carefree, not understanding what is causing a rift between her loved ones.

The KwaMashu School of Dance appeared in Vusi Makanya’s Begin at the End, a beautifully choreographed and well-presented piece that speaks about how young people have begun to find their voice and share their stories with each other. While many of these stories may be tainted with sorrow, relief is found in remembering the past so that the future can be faced. Particularly notable in this effectively-lit work were the performances from the lead male dancer Sikelela Magzola as well as one of the female dancers, Nokwazi Sihlangu.

With Holy!, Lliane Loots has taken dancers from Flatfoot Training Company and Cato Manor Vibe!! and created a joyous celebration to womanhood not only through dance but also through the spoken word of the dancers themselves. In the accompanying video presentation, Nokuphiwa Majola, Sindiswa Nxele and Thobeka Quvane prove just as articulate in speech as they are in movement as they talked about themselves, what exposure to dance has meant to them and what it means to be a woman.

However, the honours of the evening undoubtedly go to Ngcebo Nzama in Musa Hlatshwayo’s Khayini!, a piece he worked on with Ngcebo and Simphiwe Majola from Cato Manor Vibe!! As the piece progressed, I found myself wondering about certain aspects that didn’t quite make sense – very unusual for Musa’s work - only to discover afterwards that Simphiwe’s former knee injury had given him trouble shortly after the start of the performance, forcing him to withdraw. This meant that Ngcebo completed almost 75% of the piece on his own, improvising calmly and efficiently and taking the work to its final moment of peace.

In show business, the maxim is – anybody with a certain level of talent can get on stage and learn lines or movement. It’s when things go wrong, as they so often do - we are human, after all – that you discover the true professionals! If he continues with such a focused work ethic, I predict a great future for Ngcebo!

The Jomba! festival’s Ukukhula Komdanso runs from June 24 to 20 with performances at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre each evening at 19h30. Tickets R35 (R25 scholars and students). Bookings can be made through Computicket (see http://www.artsmart.co.za/dance/1340.html for more information).

Supported by funding partners HIVOS, Stichting Doen and Royal Netherlands Embassy, The CCA and Jomba! continue to facilitate the development of young dancers, choreographers and dance audiences in South Africa. For more information contact 031 260 2506 or visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za – Caroline Smart




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