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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


(Njabulo Zungu & Nqubeko Ngema. Pic by Val Adamson)

Xplosion represents a high standard of work all round. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Taking place in three venues at the Courtyard Theatre, Xplosion is presented by the Durban University of Technology’s Drama and Production Studies Department and represents the Annual Season of Contemporary Dance.

It is a showcase of the work of all 2nd and 3rd year Theatre Dance Specialists and the pre-publicity states that Xplosion “explores the relationship between movement and brain science and pushes the dancers to their limit by making their bodies move far beyond their “norm”.”

This exploration has resulted in an extensive programme that challenges a large company of performers and extends boundaries of a wide variety of styles – from contemporary dance, to hip-hop and pantsula.

There are three works involved. Dankie Madam takes place in the foyer followed by Vusi Makhanya’s the last great act of living which is performed in the theatre itself. The audience then moves outside into the courtyard area for Mdu Mtshali and Marcia Mzindle’s 5, 6, 7, 8 let’s go!

Dankie Madam is an amusing short piece workshopped by Nozipho Mbhele and Senzo Mabanga and supervised by Mdu Mtshali. It could have done with stronger lighting as much of the facial expressions were lost.

the last great act of living opens with the dancers lying flat on the floor with the lighting bar lowered to a few metres above them. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking work dealing with inter-planetary existence and offering amusing comparisons as to what life might be like out there in the cosmos. Presented by second year students, the moods change from primeval and zombie-ish to playful and futuristic.

5, 6, 7, 8 let’s go! takes its title from a choreographer or teacher’s cue to dancers in rehearsal to begin a piece, ie “five, six, seven, eight ...”. This was a non-stop high-energy work from third-year students. Many of the dancers exhibited such a strong standard that they could walk – or more appropriately, leap! - straight into any professional dance company. Would that there were enough opportunities for sustainable employment for them in this field in Durban.

While Xplosion represents a high standard of work all round, there are notable performances from Nonhlanhla Gwala, Cebo Fakazi and Nqobile Mhlongo in the last great act of living.

In 5, 6, 7, 8 let’s go! I was highly impressed by Nqubeko Ngema who performed an excellent and quite spectacular duo with Njabulo Zungu before completing a further piece with Thando Mbanjwa. As if this wasn’t sufficient drain on any dancer’s energy, he continued to play a strong part for the rest of the programme. If Nqubeko Ngema follows a career in dance – and I certainly hope he will – he will be a name to look out for.

Credit to theatre manager Mthandazo Mofokeng for good lighting design and to Sphuulile Biyela and Anathi Gobeni who are acknowledged as handling the costumes.

Xplosion is co-ordinated and directed by Mdu Mtshali and has two more performances - Wednesday and Thursday (August 26 and 27) at 19h00 at the Courtyard Theatre. Tickets at the door. – Caroline Smart