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Thursday, August 30, 2018


Space of Survival ... (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

As August draws to a close, I am nudged closer and closer to opening night of Jomba!. Something that had become part of my annual commitment for the last score. Hard to believe that 20 years have droned on and yet my memory of the beginning of this contemporary Dance Experience remains fresh. A sense of nostalgia settles over me as I wait for the infamous Loots speech that opens every Jomba! and I am overcome with anxious memories of dance works that have passed through the festival, bringing a sense of profound joy that I could be part of this community.

As Artistic Director Lliane Loots aptly jokes in response to her raucous welcome, it's good to have family in the house. As expected, she sparked inspiration in the house and taunted us with the idea of becoming radical in our approach to dance making and push boundaries with concepts that transcend borders and bounds. Loots ignites a Jihad-like flame that asks us to discover hope through fierce activism. We are introduced to the main drive of this year's experience which focuses on “being in your skin”, crossing boundaries which ignite hope and fostering a sense of community. The two works that opened this joyous celebration of Contemporary Dance did well to echo this vision.

(Scene from “Man Longing”)

Opening this 20 year celebration was Moving Into Dance Mophatong with Man Longing, choreographed by Sunnyboy Mandla Motau. This brave work delves under the skin to unearth the tragic events of enslaved, trafficked sex industry workers. Reminiscent of a previous work that was performed many moons ago; the piece finds several dancers stuffed into plastic, checkered bags, symbolic of the entrapment that ensues. The choreography is brazen as it bravely communicated the spiralling world that traps so many innocent victims. The mixture of rhythms and levels fused with lifts that traversed the body made for exciting viewing even though the theme was so heartrending.

(“The Women Who Fell From The Moon”. Pic by Herman Verwey)

The second dance work of the evening, in contrast, was a rather strange and out of this world exploration of what it means to be human and live in the skin of humanity, was titled The Women Who Fell From The Moon, choreographed by Khutjo Green in collaboration with the MIDM dancers. I admired the lights and the moon that was so proudly displayed. The costumes were beautifully designed and used to great effect in the choreography. It was weird and wonderful and questioned our sense on community and home. The choreography challenges our sense of self, and reminds us that even with change we grow and remain the same.

The 13 days of performance will take us on a nostalgic journey as we revisit some of JOMBA’s previous artists who have graced the festival's stages. These old standing partnerships are embodied in the new works that will be showcased throughout the festival including the Fringe, Youth Fringe and Main Stage performances. Welcome to Jomba! 2018...find your Jihad. - Verne Rowin Munsamy