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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


(Pic by Val Adamson: Thobeka Ntanzi, Lungelwa Radebe and Noluthando Kubheka)

Fulfilling evening from dancers of tomorrow. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Durban University of Technology’s annual dance production presented by the Drama Department represents a season of new contemporary dance works entitled Unspoken.

Unspoken deals with issue of identity, acceptance, growing tension, skin, layers, tolerance and approval. Works are about interpersonal, personal and community dynamics,” says director, dance lecturer Mdu Mtshali, who also choreographs two of the pieces. The other three are by Neliswa Rushualang, Sifiso ‘Kitsona” Khumalo and Sphelele Nzama.

Neliswa Rushualang not only choreographed but appeared in a major role in her A Clean Heart, replacing one of her dancers who was unable to perform at the last minute. Her commanding presence and dignity makes sense of a piece which exists on a number of levels. Dressed in a fantasy wedding dress that lit up, an imposing female character brings stability and constancy to the confrontational and frenetic behaviour of her peers.

S’fiso Khumalo’s Izithukuthuku is a strong dramatic piece that moves smoothly and skilfully through a work that deals with the need to conquer challenges and prevent others from trying to steal and live your dreams.

Benjamin @ his meeting point by Sphelele Nzama dealt with religion and traditional beliefs and do we still believe in the future? This was an impressive piece that required a sense of spiritual growth.

The production finished with Mdu Mtshali’s two works Imbokodo and Colours of Dreams, the former being a powerful denunciation of rape and using shadow play to good effect. Colours of Dreams, which recently appeared at this year’s Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg, focuses on a search for self-truth, of freedom from the physical body such as that experienced in dreams.

Unspoken involves 16 second-year and 23 third-year students who specialise in dance theatre. I was so impressed with the discipline and focus of the dancers in works that required a depth of maturity and high level of performance, that I am taking the unprecedented step of acknowledging all of them. Several dancers carried an extra energy load by appearing in more than one work. There were some spectacular leaps and catches that drew gasps from the audience – movements in which dancers have to be absolutely rock-solid in their trust of their partners and their choreographer.

Special mention needs to be made of April Khanyile; Sanelisiwe Mbutho; Wiseman Mncube; Sifanelesibonge Mtshali; Philani Mutwa, Professor Nqumako; Paul van Wyk and Charles Zulu.

Other dancers are: Phakama Dladla; Ayanda Fali; Nokuphila Gcabashe; Reginald Hoffman; Noluthando Kubheka; Sandile Kwela; Thandeka Masango; Precious Mgenge; Ndumiso Mhlongo; Sizakele Mkhize; Ntonhle Mtolo; Thobile Mwelase; Siphosenkosi Myeni; Sphelele Mzimela; Naledi Ndamase; Thabisile Ngcobo; Rebone Nketle; Londiwe Ngwazi; Thobeka Ntanzi; Bongeka Phungula; Pinky Qwabe; Lungelwa Radebe; Thabiso Radebe; Phumla Sikiti; Mbali Sithole; Sisanda Tshali; Mthokozisi Zulu, and Nonto Zuma.

I was very impressed with hardworking Luke O’Gorman’s lighting designs, particularly in the final moments of Colours of Dreams and the costumes overall include some striking designs.

My one criticism doesn’t have to do with the dance works but with the music chosen to accompany them and this doesn’t only apply to the DUT production. Some of the Jomba! Festival productions I saw were also unfulfilling from a musical sense. All too often in contemporary dance, the music is jarringly erratic in its content and moves from one style to another with no logical linking process. It’s almost like framing a picture with all four sides in different colours or mediums – plastic, wood, metal, etc. Like a good documentary narration, the music should complement not distract.

That aside, Unspoken is a fulfilling evening from the dancers of tomorrow. It runs at the Courtyard Theatre, DUT, until September 16 nightly at 19h00. Tickets R20. The Courtyard Theatre is situated at Mansfield / Steve Biko Road. More information from Lebohang Sibisi on 031 373 2194. – Caroline Smart

This production is best suited for adult audiences only.