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Wednesday, September 5, 2018


(A review of JOMBA! On the Edge by Sizwe Hlophe - an honours student at UKZN working under the mentorship of Lauren Warnecke, Chicago-based dance writer and critic. Courtesy of JOMBA!/KHULUMA Blog)

 (JC Zondi’s “Classi_filed”. Photography by Val Adamson. Lighting by Julie Ballard (Chicago, USA).)

Something for everyone from three artists on the rise.

A review of JOMBA! On the Edge by Sizwe Hlophe

One of the most anticipated features on the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, JOMBA! On The Edge was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience on the 4th of September at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. The platform hosts three pieces commissioned from young choreographers, in order to develop and showcase new works. These works included Classi_filed by JC Zondi, Blank by Kristi-Leigh Gresse and Imvelo by Tshediso Kabulu, who decided to share the grant with Thamsanqa “Thami” Majela. This variety in dance ensured that every artistic palate was catered to in the audience.

Zondi, last year’s JOMBA! “Pick of the Fringe,” opened the evening with his piece Classi_filed. This performance began with two clothing rails with a variation clothes hung on them. Four dancers stood frozen in time, as if mannequins in a fashion shop. Then a 5th dancer entered the stage, bringing on a 3rd rail as if she owned the store. She then manipulated the mannequins and dressed them. Standing in between them, she started doing moving, accompanied with heavy breathing that served as a catalyst. It seemed as if she was breathing life into these statues. This mere action catapulted us into a reality where the idea of clothes served as a multitude of meanings. This made me reflect on how these garments we drape over our bodies, thinking we are just covering up or keeping warm, can restrict us through negative social structures.

(Left: Kristi-Leigh Gresse’s “Blank”. Photography by Val Adamson. Lighting by Julie Ballard (Chicago, USA).)

Gresse presented a brave and strong solo performance in Blank” On stage right and stage left hung two massive plastic curtains, while upstage centre was a white block that she based her performance around. At the beginning she wore a short white dress, suggesting innocence, but her movements seemed constricted as if being violated by an exterior force. 

A larger transparent plastic curtain dropped in front of the box she performed around, obscuring our view of her. To me, the image created a sense of a butchery, with meat displayed for purchase, or being shaped on a chopping block, confronting the objectification of the female body by men.

(Below: Tshediso Kabulu and Thami Majela’s “Imvelo”. Photography by Val Adamson. Lighting by Julie Ballard (Chicago, USA).)

Imvelo by Kabulu and Majela was well-deserving of the standing ovation it received from the spectators. Imvelo in isiZulu means nature or origin, depending on the context. This striking performance begins with four candles placed on each corner of the stage. For me, this comes across as a metaphor for the four corners of the world. The use of sounds of nature, and the shadows casted on stage created a forest aesthetic and a sound track that used a tradition string instrument, an Umakhweyana closely related the theme of the dance to the title. This was then tied to exceptional choreography with a clear storyline. - Sizwe Hlophe