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Monday, May 20, 2013


(Vusi Makhanya encourages Tanya Govender to dance with him)

A heartwarming and inspirational experience. (Review by Keith Millar)

With principal funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, A New Life premiered at Stable Theatre over the weekend. It was a heartwarming and inspirational experience as a group of youngsters from Special Needs schools in Durban took to the stage – joy, wonder and profound fulfillment radiating from their smiling faces.

The production, which is described as “A Fun Dance Drama with a Huge Heart”, formed part of The Indian Academy of South Africa’s 2013 Heritage Series. It was conceived and directed by Durban theatre luminary Caroline Smart. Her inspiration came from the late Dr TP Naidoo, founder of the Academy, who dealt with his own immobility problems with dignity and determination.

Caroline Smart’s vision was to provide a platform for a group of physically challenged youngsters to develop their creative abilities, make a meaningful contribution to a professional production, and to entertain. All this through the use of the beautiful and expressive movements of both Indian classical and contemporary dance.

Helping her realise her vision was one of the country’s leading exponents of Indian dance, the beautiful Verushka Pather, and the renowned contemporary dancer and choreographer, Vusi Makhanya.

Verushka’s solo dance in the show is exquisite with all the expression and gorgeous movement which form part of this refined form of dance. She is joined by a troupe of young dancers from her company who also make an impressive contribution to the dazzling eastern sounds, colours and mood of the show.

Then there is the incomparable Vusi Makhanya. This man is a serious talent. He is well-built and muscular but moves with the grace of a gazelle. His solo dance was breathtaking. Athletic, physical and very elegant. The cross-cultural duet he performed with Verushka was enthralling and memorable.

But most extraordinary was Vusi’s interaction with the disabled youngsters. The encouragement and understanding he offered led to them performing with enjoyment and elation which was palpable. I am sure he got more out of them than even they ever believed was possible.

These physically challenged young people were undoubtedly the stars of the show.

From the VN Naik School for the Deaf were Xolani Mbatha, Kaylan Reddy and Ezile Bekebu. They provided a delightful dance number. It was energetic and perfectly synchronized – and they couldn’t hear a note of the music which was playing for the benefit of the audience. They work solely from cues and a strong sense of rhythm.

From Cheshire Homes in Chatsworth came Khethelo Doncabe, Thobani Malevu and the captivating Tanya Govender. All three have cerebral palsy and their movement is severely compromised. However, they were able to contribute in a meaningful way with a remarkable performance of movement and rhythm.

Also part of the show was the Cheshire Homes’s care-giver Samke Dlamini and two young dancers from Vusi Makhanya’s Kwa Mashu School of Dance.

The crowning moment of A New Life is when Vusi lifts Tanya (squealing with delight) onto his shoulder in a perfectly co-ordinated movement. Wheelchair-bound Tanya dreams of being a dancer - and A New Life allows her to become one.

With principal funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund A New Life aims to contribute into the future and is available for fundraising or special events. For more information contact Vasantha Naidoo, Deputy Director of the Indian Academy of South Africa, on 074 124 6889. – Keith Millar