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WINDOWS (article first published : 2005-07-7)

Windows, one of the highlights on the main of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year, marks a unique collaboration by two of South Africa’s leading choreographers: Martin Schönberg and Adele Blank. Therefore, this welcome unity of creative output included their own dance companies as they are respectively Artistic Director of Ballet Theatre Afrikan and Free Flight Dance Company.

I was not particularly happy about being placed right on the end of row B (from whence I hastily moved to the middle of the front row so that I could see the entire set) as this is not an optimum position from which to review – or, indeed, view - dance. However, being so up close and personal meant that I was able to catch every breath, muscle movement and swish of costume from the dancers of these two acclaimed companies.

Martin Schönberg has had a hand in all three aspects of design: lighting with Marc Mefdt; set with Frank Walker and costume with Adele Blank and Go Wild Trading. Quoting the programme notes, “the audience plays the role of `voyeur’” … as they look through the beautifully-lit rooms in what represents a double-story apartment block. The dancers are in skin-toned outfits and mainly clad in plastic or gossamer thin material which also goes towards the theme that our lives are open to scrutiny, whoever we are.

The day dawns. It is hot and humid. Figures in silhouette behind the thin curtains wake, stretch and dress. The sound of traffic increases. People go about their daily activities, whether they are housewives, hoboes, corporate executives, dedicated shoppers or schoolchildren. Even the briefcases and satchels are see-through.

Within this fairly ordered society, there are undercurrents – as there are everywhere in life. A man and woman are unfaithful to their respective partners and here special mention must be made of an exquisite sequence performed by Yolandi Olckers and Kagiso Mabe. However, discovery is inevitable and the lovers have to try to rebuild the trust of their respective partners as a traditional Jewish wedding unfurls.

Then it starts to rain – a gentle mist, at first, but building to the stage where the stage is covered in water and the inhabitants of the apartments frolic and skid around, welcoming this new diversion.

I really enjoyed the choice of music, which mainly tended towards a bluesy score with much use of the saxophone.

Windows was a compelling and riveting production from start to finish. I have no information as to where it goes after the National Arts Festival but if it comes your way, don’t hesitate to see it. – Caroline Smart




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