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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


(This photograph of Jilian Hurst appears in the book)

The late Jilian Hurst’s fascinating recounting of a visit to a faith healer. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Dancing into Being is the title of book written and illustrated by the late dancer and choreographer, Jilian Hurst, before she died in 1997. Hand-written in the form of a diary during their visit to a Faith-Healer in the Philippines, it has recently been published by her husband, Professor Pieter Scholtz.

The book starts with an extract from the Tao Te Ching and includes thoughts and sayings from the Tao (the Way). The first page is devoted to chapter 36 which is embraced by the title given to this publication: Dancing Into Being.

In the 60’s and 70’s close friends and colleagues Jilian Hurst and Margaret Larlham, founded the Barefoot Dance Company at the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). This was to be one of South Africa’s first contemporary dance companies and it presented regular seasons of dance in the University Open-Air Theatre (now the Pieter Scholtz Open-Air Theatre) and later in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. The Company was augmented from time to time with visiting dancers and choreographers, amongst them being Fred Hagemann, Kenlyn Ashby and Geoffrey Sutherland, all of whom were lecturers in the department at various stages. Some of their students, such as Linda Vargas, Trish McIntosh and Lliane Loots, to mention a few, have become prominent figures in the dance world.

I well remember Pieter and Jilly’s recounting of their experiences of their trip to Bagrio in the Philippines to seek treatment from Brother Laurence Cacteng. It made for fascinating listening. Cynics would say – did it make any difference? - as Jilly eventually succumbed to the cancer which had overtaken her body. I firmly say – yes, it did. Both of them believed that they were receiving help of a caring nature and if such care calms the soul then the physical being must benefit in some way.

Also we tend to ignore the value of plants, herbs and natural remedies which were in existence long before man-made drugs. There can’t be much wrong with them. Have we gone so far down the road of modern technology that we can afford to ignore what nature has presented freely since time immemorial?

We lost Jilly in 1997 and nothing will bring her back but we have her choreographed works, photographs and now her thoughts, experiences and dreams in Dancing Into Being. Pieter Scholtz has put together this publication with love, care and respect – and this shines through on every page.

The 46-page book is punctuated by Jilly’s illustrations – wonderful animal characters like long-legged elephants, dogs or birds as well as slinky snakes, lizards, insects or leaves. She recounts each of her appointments in detail as well as the treatment involved, describing Brother Laurence Cacteng as a “gentle, caring, spiritual man” and that she was aware that she felt “very comfortable with his weird, old style treatments.”

Here’s an extract: “Piet said that he worked on the skin – red liquid came out and he drew black shadowy things out of spots on the back – then he wiped it clean. Piet was pretty mind-blown and couldn’t really explain the phenomenon, but we both agreed that whatever it is, it is a symbolic cleansing and the ritual properties are valuable. He worked around the areas I was having pain in – left hip and side and I do feel easier.”

One of the most endearing aspects of the book is a tribute from actress and friend Gaynor Young, who miraculously survived a massive fall from the stage during a production she was in. Her right arm and hand were severely affected and Jilian made her a quilt with numerous pockets instructing her that each pocket could only be opened by the right hand. A brilliant piece of therapy.

If reading this gives cancer patients something to think about, I am sure that Jilly’s spirit will smile from wherever it is.

Copies of Dancing into Being will be available for the first time at its launch at the St Clements’ Mondays @ Six programme on February 9 which runs between 18h00 and 19h00. St Clements is situated at 191 Musgrave Road. Booking is advised on 031 202 2511.

For more information or to gain a copy of the book, write to HORUS Publications, 127 Snell Parade, Durban 4001, South Africa, or email Pieter Scholtz on – Caroline Smart