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Saturday, June 7, 2014


(Nosiphiwo Samente & Fana Tshabala in Cargo Precious)

The 40th National Arts Festival will be held in Grahamstown from July 3 to 13. The programme offers an awe-inspiring number of events across the arts. Herewith information on the Main Festival’s Dance programme:

BRUISING: Carving out a unique place between the disciplines of dance and theatre, Standard Bank Young Artist for 2014 Nicola Elliott’s work focuses on the body’s ability to tell its story, confronting physical experience through a theatrical medium. In Bruising, she explores the dichotomy of tensions that exist between the inner and outer worlds in our individual notions of love. Using love as a cornerstone of the work, Bruising reflects how the body is the medium of experience and how its reality can seem unendurable.

While the work investigates love, it also considers the theatrical medium itself, carefully deconstructing the very form it is using. It is this dual experience that has become a recognisable feature of Elliott’s dance-theatre signature and will allow Bruising to satisfy the minds of audience members long after they have left the auditorium. Choreographed and directed by Nicola Elliott from material sourced by the performers: Vishanthi Arumugam, Athena Mazarakis, Alan Parker, Jori Snell; Elliott will be realising the dream of bringing together a group of unique individuals for a sceptical, comical, and sometimes deeply felt investigation of what it means to feel love in all its many guises.

Nicola Elliott’s critical and curious dance-theatre has received multiple nominations and awards. Having developed a small but loyal following nationally, she continues to create work that is intelligent, surprising, moving and entertaining.

CARGO: PRECIOUS: Cargo: Precious is a unique collaboration between four Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners: director Sylvaine Strike (Theatre 2006), choreographer PJ Sabbagha (Dance 2005 ) musician Concord Nkabinde (Jazz 2006) and Fana Tshabalala (Dance 2013).

The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative teams up with performers Daniel Buckland and William Harding in this imagined account of Saartjie Baartman’s first time at sea. The piece explores the untold part of Saartjie Baartman extraordinary story: her time spent on the ship between Africa and Europe after being promised a life of freedom, fame and fortune as the subject of fascination in a travelling show called The Hottentot Venus.

Research suggests that Saartjie was loaded as cargo onto a ship leaving Cape Town; the only woman on board and the property of Hendrik Cesar, a freed slave who worked for Alexander Dunlop, a military surgeon. These men accompanied Saartjie on the journey she would not return from alive. It’s a story that ends with her remains repatriated to South Africa, nearly two centuries after her body had been dissected and bottled in formaldehyde in an experiment said to have been done ‘all in the name of science’.

RUST COLOURED SKIRT: Known for producing socially engaged work, and his long history with Jazzart Dance Theatre, Alfred Hinkel (awarded a Standard Bank Special Recognition Award in 2007) has returned to his roots in the Northern Cape village of O’Kiep, exploring new means of dance-making. A master story-teller, Hinkel has produced three works (Padonbekend, Dansmettieduiwels and SEEP) with creative and life partner John Linden under this dispensation.

Rust Coloured Skirt is an autobiographical consideration of dance as a medium through which life is experienced, from the perspectives of differing life stages. Audiences can expect a quirky and honest exploration of things that matter, as Debbie Goodman-Bhyatt (formerly of Jazzart and Jagged Dance) returns to the stage after 15 years, with Hinkel himself. Two youngsters - Adelaide Majoor and Byron Klassen - playfully juxtapose their biographies with their elders’ in a narrative which craftily interweaves their personal stories.

WHAT DOES THE EARTH THINK IT IS?: Climate change calls for an activism that is not elevated, ideal or abstract, but an integrated part of everyday consciousness, located within our cultural histories and ecologies. What does the earth think? has as its narrative a deeply metaphoric potted history of the colonisation of the earth – a portrayal of the nature of Nature, before an opinion from humankind imperialises its meaning and potentially. It considers local vs global and present vs future, through sophisticated deliberation, reflexive engagement and aesthetic response to the urgency of self-expression. Through a stark visual dreamscape, van Tonder creates an environment of pre-sunrise possibility, a feeling of being in tune with earth before we can see it. Film, projected onto the body, invites an observation of the way the world provides evidence to this awareness.
Tossie van Tonder, aka Nobonke, is a South African dance pioneer, psychologist and writer. Her ideas often find expression in primal physicality, and her dance performance works at this Festival span 30 years.

20/20 VISIONS: 20/20 Visions is a repertoire of four choreographic pieces, rooted in deeply personal histories which challenge the past, while interrogating the present socio-political and cultural status quo. Using diverse techniques and aesthetic approaches, the selected artists raise questions in performed vignettes which offer true-to-life portraits, often based on personal experience. The four works are Doors of Gold; 19 Born 76 Rebels; Dark Cell and Inkukhu Ibeke Iqanda

Doors of Gold is a performance installation solo work by Tebogo Munyai. It alludes to an absence. Gold skulls form a cornerstone around the performance area. The narrative attempts to draw the audience’s attention to the unturned stones of the history of the people who died while working forcefully in the mines. Munyai attempts to give a voice to those for whom there is not even a trace in any archive.

19 Born 76 Rebels: Mamela Nyamza’s choreographic piece finds its inspiration from the 1976 student uprising against the apartheid system by black students who rebelled against Afrikaans being taught in their schools. The 1976-newborns were products of this period of violence, resistance, rebellion, protest and political and physical activism. Their oppressed mothers were victims of the violent and inhuman suffering meted out by the government and its forces of oppression. Nyamza’s work asserts that those in the wombs of their mothers at the time still carry the scars and wounds of those times today – if not in a real, then definitely in a symbolic, manner. Nyamza performs with Faniswa Yisa.

Dark Cell: Themba Mbuli’s Dark Cell draws its inspiration and metaphors from imagery of ex-political prisoners on Robben Island. While celebrating and commemorating South African history, the piece is embedded in the past as a mirror of contemporary society and a reflection of postcolonial interiority. Using props to animate dance movements, the works aspire to take the audience on a journey of self-confrontation/realisation.  The choreographed piece is a theatrical fusion of contemporary dance, moving images, projected images, moving set/props, recorded text, live and pre-recorded sounds/music which try to elaborate how the mind can be the worst prison a person can ever have.

Inkukhu Ibeke Iqanda; First performed at the Theater Spektakel in Zurich in August 2013, then at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective in Cape Town, Inkukhu ibeke iqanda is a departure from the mainstream theatre in which Chuma Sopotela has excelled. This piece is an experiment on sexuality, theatre and performance. 

NILE: Nile is the result of a long-gestating collaboration between French/Swiss choreographers Compagnie 7273 and American guitarist Sir Richard Bishop. This piece aims to capture the undulating nature of the Nile River through a striking and moving combination of dance and music. It positions the river as a reservoir of imagination, rife with contradictions such as permanence and metamorphosis; fecundity and desert; physicality and spirituality.

Laurence Yadi and Nicolas Cantillon of Compagnie 7273 received the ‘Award of the Fondation Liechti pour les Arts’ for their production Climax in 2006 and the Swiss Dance and Choreography Prize in 2011. In this piece, they collaborate with American guitarist Sir Richard Bishop, an improviser and former punk who loves the Middle East and India, and is a musician who is as great and free as he is unclassifiable. Dancers: Luc Benard, Nicolas Cantillon, Gildas Diquero, Lola Kervroedan, Margaux Monetti, Laurence Yadi

LE SONGE D’UNE NUIT D’ÉTÉ: Who can resist the love-potions and possets whipped up by Michel Kelemenis; or rather, the magic juices of his Puck? In his very personal appropriation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the French choreographer behaves uncannily like Shakespeare’s mischievous elf. But this is no careless Puck at work, and this is no mere sequence of Freudian slips: Michel Kelemenis means business when he starts playfully pulling the strings of the comic play Shakespeare had imagined as a satire of Elizabethan society. In alluring tones, he leads his audience into a world where the marvellous and the mysterious rub elbows with the grotesque. Le Songe d’une nuit d’été is full of surprises: a forest with no trees or bushes, where rude mechanicals with dramatic ambitions bump into a donkey, the consequence of Oberon and Titania’s quarrel.

The Geneva Ballet Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in an enchanting place where dreams rule over – and overrule – everything. Estranged lovers pass in the night and meet again, as the mechanicals’ band of amateur actors opens the doors to a land of dreams. The subtle strains of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet merge into the exquisite orchestration of his famous stage music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, leading us into the darkest corners of a fairy wood. Let yourselves be carried away by the poetry of bodies moving in a universe of essential sensuality, lightness and undisguised instincts.

William Shakespeare wrote his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream sometime between 1594 and 1595. In 1826, the young Felix Mendelssohn composed an overture to the Play, and in 1843, the King of Prussia; Friedrich Wilhelm IV, commissioned Mendelssohn to write more incidental music for the play. A Midsummer Night's Dream became part of the classical ballet repertoire in 1876 in a version by the famous Russian choreographer Marius Petipa. With this new setting by Michel Kelemenis and accompanied by musical support of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, the Grand Théâtre de Genève Ballet Company reaffirms its commitment to a form of dance that interprets the great works of the ballet repertoire in a new and exciting present tense.

Principal Dancers: Joseph Aitken (Cupid/King of the Elves, Yu Otagaki (Fairy Queen), Geoffrey Van Dyck and Sarawanee Tanatanit (Blue lovers), Nathanaël Marie and Daniela Zaghini (Pink lovers), Paul Girard / Loris Bonani (Pyramus/Thisbe); and Aurélien Dougé, Natan Bouzy, Vladimir Ippolitov (3 Thieves).

2013 EASTERN CAPE INDIGENOUS MUSIC AND DANCE ENSEMBLE: The productions will highlight the vibrancy of the Eastern Cape sub-tribes - amaBhaca, abaThembu, amaKhoisan, abeSuthu, amaNdiya and amaMpondo - to display their rich music and dance heritage. This will be a potpourri of traditional dance and music ranging from the foot-stomping of amaBhaca dance to the animal movement of the Khoisan. Dedicated performers from each of the sub-tribes or clans utilize this opportunity to showcase their rich diverse indigenous music and dance, thus celebrating their political freedom.

LOVE DANCE – Exhibition: The title Love Dance is an accurate reflection of the passion that photographer Val Adamson has for photographing dance. For Adamson, watching dance is an exciting, engrossing experience that becomes a lingering, evocative memory once the performance is over. Her thrilling challenge has been to capture some of those moments and save those images for posterity, allowing the viewer to relive the beauty of live dance.

This photographic exhibition covers almost 20 years of Dance in KZN, featuring an array of dancers from throughout Africa representing a variety of styles and genres. It is a celebration of dance as seen through Adamson’s lens, showcasing some of the most poignant moments and astonishing feats of agility exemplifying the artform’s combination of athleticism and beauty.

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