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Thursday, March 26, 2015

days like these

(Julia Wilson & Sifiso Khumalo. Pic by Val Adamson)

New dance work allows Flatfoot fans a glimpse into the dancers’ personal memories. (Review by Caroline Smart)

This year, Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company celebrates its 12th year – no mean achievement in an arts world where survival presents often insurmountable financial challenges. However, under the persistence and determination of its artistic director, choreographer Lliane Loots, it continues to present innovative and thought-provoking contemporary dance.

days like these, which opened last night at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, is no different. It has the added focus that allows us a glimpse into the personal memories of the six resident members of the company.

Inspired by the words of Nigerian author Ben Okri: “There is not a single person who is not touched by the silent presence of stories”, she has created a work built on the dancers’ own contributions – not just through the medium of dance but through language as well. She asked them to “dig for memories around three specific topics: food, politics and love/loss.”

A two-week “intensive and deeply personal” workshop saw the dancers - Sifiso Majola, Tshediso Kabulu, Sifiso Khumalo, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson and Zinhle Nzama – exploring the themes and finding personal experiences to match them. The result is a well-presented dancework that relies on dramatic text and film imagery to make a satisfying creative whole.

I also believe this production has probably brought this already tight-knit group a little closer, having gone through such a personal process. There is a sequence where one will turn to another and say “hold me” and then leap into their arms. These leaps in dance are always hugely based on trust for one false move or lack of focus could result in a serious fall!

Forming an integral part of the production are Karen Logan’s videoscapes. Wide township street scenes are played across the back of the theatre, often featuring a distant image of the dancer who is performing on the stage. Another innovative and very personal touch is the playing of the dancers’ interviews on white curtains at the side of the stage. These range from the nostalgic (remembering grandmothers) or humorous (making food with hefty helpings of mayonnaise) to memories of growing up in physical township violence (mothers dressing their young sons in girls’ clothes to avoid them being drawn in by the gangs) and the assault and rape of a friend (because he was gay).

The cast are dressed all in white and Wesley Maherry’s lighting adds subtle colours and shades to enhance the movement. The light is often designed to make the dancers perform in front of their enormous shadows.

days like these runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until March 29. Tonight’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. – Caroline Smart