- Category: Dance
- Written by Gisele Turner
The Centre for Creative Arts 16th Jomba! Festival started at UKZN’s Sneddon Theatre (Howard College Campus, Durban) with a memorable and profound experience. Not only did we listen to festival instigator and artistic director Lliane Loots say what is on every one’s mind regarding the paucity of funding for artists and specifically for dance companies, but we experienced, with mind-numbing clarity, the way in which art serves us as human beings. The exquisite performance of 'Beautiful Us' and 'Dominion' from Joburg-based Vuyani Dance Theatre reminded us that when contemporary dance is at its best it is truly a universal language that speaks to the heart.
Nothing could have prepared me for the quality of the experience offered by Vuyani Dance theatre on opening night. While Lliane Loots told us that the lack of funding meant that all the artists would be local (and would perform without a fee) it seemed a sad statement, reflecting poorly on our capacity to host overseas acts and so be exposed to the richness they would offer. Vuyani Dance Theatre met every demanding standard: extraordinary choreography, talented and committed dancers, appropriate and cleanly executed lighting, well-designed and well -cut costumes. At the end of each of their performances the audience rose to their feet and shrieked their approval.
‘Beautiful Us’ has got to be one of the most moving and fascinating exposés of the condition of our environment - depicting both the power and uniqueness of the individual as well as the power and strength of the community. Here 10 dancers held us enthralled as they interpreted Gregory Magoma’s vision of aspects of planet earth. The diversity of movement was so engaging, the singular use of appropriate music to carry the dance forms so enchanting, the tightness of the group in corps work so satisfying and the overall feeling at the end of the piece so exhilarating, that ‘Beautiful Us’ could stand proudly anywhere in the world as a brilliant piece of dance theatre. Which it does!
The interval was needed for the audience to catch their breaths (and no doubt the dancers too) and when the curtains rose on the second half, it was to a very different scenario, this time choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya, titled ‘Dominion’. With a raised platform to elevate those in power, and the peasants below, a universal historical truth was played out. Echoing the recently seen and appreciated ‘Animal Farm’, reworked for South African audiences by Neil Coppen, ‘Dominion’ explored the role of those in power and how it leads to the use and misuse of the trust of the people.
The ordinary man does not quaff champagne; he scrabbles for crumbs thrown to him by his leaders. Who gets the bread on the ground? The infighting amongst the people for the limited resources is expertly carried by this shocking and palpable symbol of life. The Russians called for Peace and Bread; the people always call for food. Sure enough, someone in power realises that the dictator is losing popularity and sees the gap. The terrifying truth of the way leaders appear to identify with the people until they themselves are instated is the final image of this powerful piece of dance theatre.
Jomba! is a celebration of dance. But, it is also a reflection of our world, our societies. We may have shrunk back to relying on our own creative resources due to lack of funding, but the opening night was proof that we need look no further than our own country for creative artistry of the highest standard.
Jomba! runs at the Sneddon Theatre until 7 September. Visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za for details. Booking through Computicket.
Enjoy a youtube snippet of Luyanda Sidiya's 'Dominion' (below)