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Wednesday, July 3, 2019


(Work by Sean Crozier, Nduduzo Makhathini & Kitty Phetla. Pic by Lauge Sorensen)

Phetla impresses considerably with her elegance and fluid movements, whether performing en pointe or in a pair of socks. (Review by Caroline Smart)

In a first in the history of the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards, the Young Artist for Dance, Kitty Phetla, joins forces with a previous winner for Jazz – Nduduzo Makhathini who is both artist and healer - to create a new work in which they pay tribute to the spirits who guide them today, both personally and in their work.

Going Back to the Truth of Space is performed and choreographed by classical ballet dancer Kitty Phetla. There were five performances on the Festival, but I was only able to catch the last one in which Makhathini did not appear, as apparently he had to return to Cape Town.

However, the splendid grand piano remained on stage, representing his presence, and the performance featured a sound recording of the music he would have been playing.

This final show saw an added visual contribution by acclaimed artist Sean Crozier with the screening of works across the whole of the backstage wall. The evocative images reflected “a philosophy of science, heritage, culture and history that reimagines the past and envisions our future”.

(Right: Kitty Phetla.Pic by  Mark Wessels )

Phetla, who is one of the few black ballerinas in the world, is renowned as having toured Russia as the first black dancer to embody the famous Dying Swan on stage.

Going Back to the Truth of Space features a mix of ballet and contemporary dance and Phetla impresses considerably with her elegance and fluid movements, whether performing en pointe or in a pair of socks. Her legs go on forever, so her arabesques and penchés are particularly stunning. (A penché is when a dancer is usually bent forward over one leg with the other in arabesque well above 90 degrees!)

The programme mentions that the piece “engages in modes of communication through moments of improvisation but I sometimes felt that these tended to become repetitive and lost their meaning, However, scenes such as her caressing of the piano and the placement of the ballet pointe shoes around the piano stool spoke volumes as a token of respect for Makhathini.

The final scenes involves a shower of rain. Water pours from a pipe in the flies, Phetla thrusts herself in and out of the fast flowing drops and gets wet, which I took to be a kind of cleansing process.

In an article in Eye Witness News, Winnie Theletsane, describes the production eloquently: “She moved around the stage as if she was in search of an emotional shelter as if she was trying to find a space to hide her innocent soul and nurture it until it could face the turbulence brought by life itself. Somehow she managed to make me feel like the ancestors still had the power to guide the living and protect us from evil.”

This was an interesting collaboration between two Young Artist Award winners and has the potential for great development. – Caroline Smart

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