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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Dance trailblazers of tomorrow in action in DUT four-piece dance drama. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Directed by well-known choreographer and dance lecturer Mdu Mtshali. Rejected Angels is a season of thought-provoking contemporary dance presented by The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Television, Drama and Production Studies running at the Courtyard Theatre until August 21.

Inspired by Albinism and featuring second and third year DUT Drama Students, the four-piece dance drama is inspired by Albinism. It features work by top Durban choreographers Musa Hlatshwayo (Amens!), Sifiso Khumalo (Harsh, harsh my soul), Sifiso Majola (The end is beginning), and Mdu Mtshali (A bird without song) himself.

Mdu Mtshali explains: “Rejected Angels addresses rumours and strange beliefs made by witchdoctors that, if you use a bald head when fishing, you get rich and if you spread an albino’s blood inside a mine you will find gold. These rumours continue but the people who follow witchdoctors do not question them.”

Performing in its early stages to a slow languorous guitar theme, Sifiso Majola’s The end is beginning) features 3rd year students. The work hinges on the words of the poem spoken: “When you come to a point of no return because of previous unresolved challenges some other challenges come into play.” Special mention here of Nombuso Gcabashe who handled the poetry, Mbalenhle Cele for her strong singing voice, Nontando Maphumulo’s sensitive poignancy and Mthandazo Mofokeng’s emotive first appearance, which sees him yoked and bound

Sifiso Khumalo’s Harsh, harsh my soul with 2nd year students sees his female cast dressed in strong turquoise which made a vivid statement. The poetic reference is “this life shouldn’t be a nightmare; this life should be words you like to hear.” There was a strong male content in this piece, including good performances from S’fiso Ndlovu (who also handled the poetry), Lungelo Ngcobo, Busani Mbili, Musawenkosi Ntuli and Nhlakanipho Manqele. Female dancers who impressed were Sinegugu Mbutho and Jabu Mabaso with Gcebile Dlamini and Philisiwe Sithole presenting a moving duet.

Always breaking new ground, Musa Hlatshwayo presents Amens! with the 3rd year students. This is a fascinating piece surrounded by apples – the idea being that once the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened by the apple, they began to be more aware of the different types – and especially skin colours - of apples. However, this is no angst work dwelling on racism but a fast-moving multi-media experience. The female dancers all wear porcupine quills on one hand which must have made early rehearsals a dangerous nightmare! If this was the case, it was worth it because those “long-fingered” hands give a highly dramatic element to extended arm movements as well as shadows cast on the back wall. Did I mention there were a LOT of apples? In fact, a cast of 16 munching apples gives birth to a new percussive sound! Special mention here must be made of the performances by Thobani Mbhele, Lerato Mafatle and Sazi Buthelezi.

Mdu Mtshali’s (A bird without song) with 2nd year students fairly burst into being with a powerful introduction by Menzi Mkhwane as the witchdoctor, a performance which remained riveting until the last moment. His sense of movement is so articulate it is difficult to believe that he is only a 2nd year student so this promises good work to come. A bird without song requires a strong sense of drama and emotion from its performers as they have to become souls possessed, disturbed spirits or walking zombies. I was impressed by Tumelo Khoza who needed to transfer from naïveté to lover - with supportive partners Lungani Malo and Mpilo Masuku - to frightened sacrificial object. Also notable were Haseena Hans, Fortunate Dhlomo and Yvonne Ludaka.

Each dance work has a different cast, indicating the strong talent that is due to move into the mainstream performing arts world in the near future. I was impressed by the maturity, standard of discipline and focus – no matter the size, height or body weight - of the performers. The choreographers also challenged their dancers with some complicated moves. The poetry extracts (not identified) were well chosen. All costumes were highly appropriate for the respective pieces and Luke O’Gorman (now theatre manager of The Courtyard Theatre) is to be commended on his lighting design.

If you’re interested in dance – and particularly contemporary dance – don’t miss it, you’ll get a chance to see the trailblazers of tomorrow in action.

Rejected Angels runs from August 17 to 21 August at 19h00 at The Courtyard Theatre (DUT Mansfield Road). Bookings on 031 373 2194 or email: – Caroline Smart