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CITYSCAPES (article first published : 2002-04-13)

Durban beach at Easter is associated with surf riders, skateboarders, sunny skies, sticky pizzas and surging crowds. Yet there’s another dimension in the eternal rhythm of the sea. This is vividly captured in a video by the masterful Junaid Ahmed. It was created to mirror a mesmerising dance incorporating white clad Shembe, Celtic and Kathak performers that echoed the mystical motion of the waves.

Set on the North pier, it is one of five works choreographed by the Siwele Sonke Dance company’s Jay Pather which have all been performed in so-called site specific locations round Durban. They came together in a finale at the Durban Art Gallery where each was interpreted by original movie footage.

This extraordinary happening included a satirical scene from Legends restaurant at the elitist Musgrave Centre with Isicathamiya singers (Don’t Cry for Me e-Tekweni), gumboot dancers and an abseiling black kugel, backed by a stunning abstract video from the artist Virginia MacKenny.

Another cameo was set on the inner city escalators of 320 West Street with Pansula dancers sporting pin striped suits and cell phones - joyously rural meets city slicker, escalating (sorry) into an offbeat climax to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

The locations were an integral part of the creations and the random audiences became enthusiastically and uninhibitedly involved. In keeping with the whole project, the undercover culmination was far removed from elitist theatre, formal ticket sales and bums on seats. Watchers shambled from gallery to gallery, glass of wine in hand to stand or squat on the floor. The ululating ovations on the opening night proved that dance can be a rave.

In spite of its grass roots appeal, a tremendous amount of thought and energy has gone into Cityscapes, with its range from tap and tumbling through kwaito and hip hop to smudges of charcoal humour, movingly performed and presented as a fresh vision of our brave new world.

Take a big bow Jay Pather. - Lynne Goodman




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