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Monday, March 16, 2015

days like these

Durban’s inimitable Flatfoot Dance Company begins its 12th year in 2015 with a full blown performance season of innovative dance.

days like these” has a one-week run at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 25 to 29.

Always looking for new challenges, award-winning Durban-based choreographer, Lliane Loots has delved into the theatre-making methodologies of Verbatim Theatre to create days like these. Verbatim theatre, sometimes referred to as Documentary Theatre, asks the playwright to gather live testimony and the spoken word of real people to construct the dialogue of a drama. In this way the resultant theatre work achieves a degree of authenticity and truthfulness that allows real people a voice. With a history going back to the 60s, Verbatim Theatre has a long trajectory in creating edgy political theatre where these methodologies help create social dialogue.

Loots’s fascinating with Verbatim Theatre sparked an interest to see if there could be cross-over into contemporary dance. As Loots says; “the way that I work is essentially verbatim in that I am constantly asking the dancers to bring their own life experience – through their bodies – into the work we make. As a choreographer I have always thought of myself as a type of ‘collector of stories’; some of them are my own but others come from the dancers who I am working with”.

In days like these, Loots has asked the six resident Flatfoot dancers and co-collaborators on this dance work (Sifiso Majola, Tshediso Kabulu, Sifiso Khumalo, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson and Zinhle Nzama) to go even deeper into this physical and spoken word storytelling. After a two-week intensive and deeply personal workshop process around memory gathering, Loots only then set out to create the choreography around what she calls “a dance theatre work that takes everyday memories and begins to celebrate the sacred of what we all might feel is the commonplace of our lives”. She goes on to say, “what has resulted is an incredibly tender and beautiful interior dancescape that – for me anyway – will poignantly remind an audience of what it means to be human; and to be an African”.

Loots asked the dancers to dig for memories around three specific topics; food, politics and love/loss. As the process of remembering went, Loots explains, “we sat with each other sometimes laughing till we cried and sometimes growing silent in a shared space of pain and solidarity. I am reminded again that the deeper we dig into the personal as artists, the more profoundly political our voices become”.

days like these, sees Loots return to a long time artistic partnership with award winning Durban theatre and filmmaker, Karen Logan. Logan’s videoscape for days like these, sits at the heart of the work as it was her task to capture, verbatim, the final memories and stories collected.

Logan says, “working on days like these has me seriously excited. It’s always inspiring to work with Lliane Loots and the Flatfooters - this work in particular is meaty and uncompromising and is taking new leaps with the integration of the AV on multiple levels and surfaces and the melting of boundaries between documentary and dance. I think the results will be mesmerising, befitting the very personal layers of narrative that each dancer has woven into the work”.

days like these also features the subtle and imaginative lighting design of Wesley Maherry whose challenge was not only to help support the manifold projections, but to also find a way to light the dance that helped the stories unfold.

days like these works with multiple projections and light, and as the images, the voices and the dancing bodies begin – in truth and vulnerability - to layer the stage space, so the remarkable magic of dance theatre starts to happen. We are reminded, in days like these, of the need for art and dance, to urge us, as audience, to unbury our own stories. Loots began this work in a response to Nigerian writer, Ben Okri’s comment;

"There is not a single person who is not touched by the silent presence of stories. A nation is as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Without fighting, stories have won over more people than all the great wars put together. The universe began as a story. Only those who have lived, suffered, thought deeply, loved profoundly, know joy and the pain of life, tell truly wonderful stories. Africa breathes stories."

days like these runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from March 25 to 29.Thursday’s performance (March 26 at 19h30) features a special after show Dance Talks Back hosted by award-winning arts journalist Adrienne Sichel in conversations with Loots and the dancers. This is a unique opportunity to listen to the dancers and choreographers unpack and answer questions about their work. Sichel comes to Durban as a guest from The Ar(t)chive at the Wits School of Arts.

Tickets R85 (R50 for students/learners and pensioners). Block bookings of 10 or more people is also available at R50 per ticket). Booking is at Computicket.