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Saturday, July 2, 2016

NAF: days like these...

(Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the 2016 National Arts Festival)
(Pic by Val Adamson)

Visually captivating dance theatre work. (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

Every July, Durban artists make the 15-hour journey to Grahamstown to join hundreds of shows that make up the National Arts Festival. We come here to share our histories, our stories and our souls through our various art forms. This year the ’11 days of amazing’ selected Flatfoot Dance Company as one of the opening features on the main festival.

Flatfoot is located in the heart of Durban and the award-winning, internationally travelled company are best known for their riveting pieces of dance theatre that often tackle ideas of one’s personal memory swaddled in political and social history; days like these... is no different.

This dance theatre work places itself in the theatre making style of Verbatim Theatre, where (almost like a documentary) testimonies are gathered and heard and, in this instance, spoken through the dancing body. Choreographer Lliane Loots has established herself as a dance theatre practitioner who is always questioning and challenging social and personal politics and in days like these...she has challenged the dancers of Flatfoot Dance Company to delve deep into their own personal histories and reveal the challenges and struggles that they have overcome or had to live through.

The original six resident Flatfoot dancers and collaborators on the project: Sifiso Majola (who is strong and confident), Tshediso Kabula (who didn’t dance because he is in London on exchange), Sifiso Khumalo (who is polished as usual), the ever beautiful Jabu Siphika, the captivating Julia Wilson, the poised Zinhle Nzama and, later in the process, Njabulo Zungu (who is simply remarkable at such a tender age and brings a fresh dynamic to the company), reunite to embark on this journey to speak their histories and their struggles.

Pooling their stories and finding common ground to dance on, the six dancers whisk us into their stories with creative passion and soothing, hypnotic rhythms. The dancers are, as always, passionately in control of their own stories, as was the vision of this verbatim styled dance theatre piece. In an attempt to showcase a multi-layered piece with multiple narratives we bear witness to stories of love, loss, motherhood and even the brutality of and the shame attached to the rape of a homosexual man.

All these lived experiences are beautifully woven together by the videoscapes made by award-winning Durban theatre and film maker, Karen Logan, who captures the reality of these lived histories through imaginative and thought-provoking ways. The tone of this dance piece and this search for unspoken histories is further enhanced by the subtle yet inviting lighting design created by Wesley Maherry.

“Flatfoot dancers are hungry dancers”and their hunger to unearth truths is revealed sensitively and charismatically through days like these... . Durban stories are spoken with firm vigour through this dance theatre work at this year’s NAF. Ben Okri says that, “Great eras are eras in which great stories are lived and told. Without fighting, stories have won over more people than all the great wars put together ... Africa breathes great stories”.

Lliane Loots, Flatfoot Dance Company and all the collaborators have made this a great era at the National Arts Festival with this visually captivating dance theatre work. - Verne Rowin Munsamy

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