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DANCE AT NAF (article first published : 2003-06-16)

A celebration of dance styles from traditional to experimental, features on the programme for the 2003 National Arts Festival which runs in Grahamstown from June 27 to July 5.

Heading the bill, Swan Lake offers audiences the rare treat of a full ballet with a complete orchestra – in this case, Veronica Paeper’s Cape Town City Ballet and the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s ravishing music and a tale of bewitchment and doomed love told through awesome solos, showy pas de deux and dreamy ensemble work promise to work their timeless magic yet again.

An Eastern classic tradition – India’s lyrical Orissi dance – is introduced to Festival audiences by the exquisitely costumed Shagun Butani and her four male counterparts. Other motifs from Indian classical dance are fused with movements from contemporary dance and traditional Zulu and Xhosa ritual by Durban’s Jay Pather to evoke intimate interior moments of belonging and dislocation in his new work Home. Video and artwork enrich the layers of meaning in a series of four pieces set in different home spaces.

The Indian tradition has also touched Moya Michael, the 2003 Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner. She is a founder member of Akram Kahn’s British company and has toured internationally with him, collaborating in the creation of his seminal Kaash (‘If’ in Hindi). For the festival she dances a solo piece and presents a second work featuring six performers from the newly-formed Tshwane Dance Theatre. Led by Mandla Mcunu and Kristy McMurray, Tshwane Dance Theatre presents a separate original Festival programme, Inspirit.

Out of this Moon, an anniversary concert performance by the First Physical Theatre Company celebrates ten years of exploration and invention under artistic director Gary Gordon. The Festival show includes reprieves of two playful works, On the Light Side of the Moon (1992) and Money (1999). The dreamy and ritualistic Surround her with water: an Epiphany (1993) and Travellers V (2002) are contrasted with the sustained savagery and rage of Shattered Windows (1993).

The Art of Taking Off is another physical theatre event, featuring that astute clown, Gerard Bester, as an ordinary chap in search of an appropriate exit. Directed by Sue Pam-Grant, Bester intersperses intense emotion with moments of delicious humour.

Integrating performers with different physical ability, Gladys Agulhas creates an aesthetic of miracle and risk in give or take ’n word or 2. She joins forces with mime/dancer Athena Mazarakis, dancer Belinda Nagel, performer and sign language expert Vincent Phiri and performer David Fumbatha – a member of the Self-Help Association for Paraplegics and the Tshwaragano-In Touch integrated dance project.

Once again, the Eastern Cape Cultural Ensemble presents a spectacular event with a large cast of performers, showcasing trends and traditions from the length of a multi-talented region.

This year’s National Arts Festival is sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Standard Bank, the SABC and the National Arts Council. Free booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and some Computicket outlets, and booking is open at Computicket nationwide.




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