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Friday, July 3, 2009


Durban’s Siwela Sonke heads for Grahamstown as dance passion flares onstage at the National Arts Festival (Grahamstown 2 to 11 July 2009)

Tales of lust, jealousy and rage light emotional fires in the main dance programme for the National Arts Festival (Grahamstown July 2 to 11 2009).

Seduced by a wood nymph, a foolish swain betrays his sweetheart on the eve of their wedding in La Sylphide,one of the earliest ballets in the romantic repertoire. Set in the Scottish Highlands, the two-act ballet is presented by Cape Town City Ballet with choreography by August Bournonville and Lǿvenskjold’s score performed by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. La Sylphide is preceded by Paquita, performed in traditional tutus and showcasing dance skills to stylish music by Ludwig Minkus.

Flamenco and Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, based on themes from Bizet’s Carmen were the starting points for dance sensation Dada Masilo. Her Carmen takes the fated gypsy heroine to places even she has not dared before as she defies fate with her rampant sexuality.

In Body of Evidence, with choreography by Jay Pather, performers from Durban’s Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre Company lash out against violence that can never be forgotten. The body’s memory makes dance possible, but it is also an indelible archive of violation.

Memory throbs in the deep rhythms of the ravanne drum as Reunion’s Theatre Taliipot enacts Mâ Ravan’, a choreographic ritual that draws on timeless stories of travel, exile and yearning for the mother continent of Africa.

Classical Indonesian dance codes fuse with African themes in Ken Arok (Cursed Sword) (première) by Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner Thabo Rapoo. The second work in his double-bill is eMandulo, a home-based piece inspired by his mother and affirming the traditional role of the female.

Duality is fundamental to Zebra, a striking collaboration between PJ Sabbagha of The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative and Ivan Estegneev of Russia’s Dialogue Dance Company and School. The stage and the dancers are dressed in black and white, but the action teases out the subtle grey areas in the male psyche and the complexity of relationships between five male personae.

Iconic performance poet Lebo Mashile, legendary choreographer Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser and Moving into Dance Mophatong pull words, movement, music and visuals all together with Threads in a performance space appropriately criss-crossed with cords and ropes. The action weaves its way through, as we weave our way through connecting relationships and social impediments.

Beauty and grace are the threads that run through Manipuri Folk Dance, one of the six classical dance styles of India. Maestra Sruti Bandopadhay 1 performers introduce festival audiences to a lyrical tradition that opens the door to the divine.

This year the accomplished East Cape Ensemble takes a tour through the traditions of amaBhaca. Gorgeous costumes, a feast of colour, movement and sound are on the itinerary. Audiences can get a second taste of Bhaca performance traditions at the Studio, where Vumelani – let us dance directed by Tina Piek, includes an appearance by the Manyandube Dance Group. These Bhaca matriarchs have performed as a group for more than two decades. In contrast, athletic young dancers from Via Paterson Art Club and the Mvanda Dance Group present traditional pieces and samples of contemporary fusion. All three groups in the show have a cultural agenda, believing that youth will benefit if the old traditions are kept alive.

On The Fringe, a full and varied programme of dance means that every visitor can make the Festival a voyage of dance discovery.

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