Review Contemporary Dance: Fragile – Telling Stories, Painting Pictures

Review Contemporary Dance: Fragile – Telling Stories, Painting Pictures - 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 reviews

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Flat Foot Dance Company celebrates 11 years of existence this year. But, as Artistic Director Liane Loots pointed out, the future looks fragile. With many dance companies disappearing due to lack of funding, the essential role played by the artist in our society is seriously threatened. Featuring two dance pieces, ‘Fragile’, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, was a reminder that the language of dance is universal, powerful and necessary


The work of two choreographers makes up the Fragile programme: Dusting off my History created by David Gouldie and The Inheritance of Loss by Lliane Loots in collaboration with the dancers. As a double bill, the pieces were well matched, featuring the same six resident dancers, working with the concept of fragility, but approaching it from totally different head spaces. Gouldie’s work, retrospective, personal, humorous, whimsical and very easy to watch was contrasted by the politically motivated, dark and powerful piece created by Loots.

Of great value to understanding the concepts and the motivations, so often lost in a blur of profoundly personal symbolism in contemporary dance, was the discussion led by esteemed dance critic Adrienne Sichel. The choreographers spoke of their individual goals and how these had been achieved through their pieces.

Gouldie’s work in the dance world encompasses many styles and genres; trained as a classical ballet dancer, he has ventured into cabaret, musical theatre, corporate and artistic events and, of course, contemporary dance. Gouldie has always played with a light touch; there is a playfulness and inspirational improvisation feel to his work. But, his disciplined past makes those ideas manifest in a way that is neither frothy nor thin; and his sharp intelligence holds the many threads together. In Dusting off my History the dancers, dressed in a faux mix of cabaret and balletic get-up, postured, primped and sashayed around the stage, but the grim reality of tightly synchronised chorus work dogged their every step.

Fluffing about with feathers in the form of those large fans used by chorus girls to conceal and reveal their booty, Gouldie kept the feather theme alive with pillow fights, feather dusters, referrals in the choreographic routine to Swan Lake and a final sad flurry of feathers falling from the sky in muted light. If he planned to put his past behind him, the sense was that he had grappled with it all and regretted nothing.

Loots’ piece The Inheritance of Loss, however, was filled with the saddest of regrets and a feeling that things were unlikely to get better. With her two quotes: Smuts Ngonyama’s “I did not join the struggle to be poor” and Steve Tshwete’s comment “We’ve been standing here for 26 seconds and nobody has been raped” reinforce our awareness that all is not well in our country. Starting with a reading from the 1955 Freedom Charter, the piece demonstrates how far we are from the ideals subscribed to by people who sought power, not for personal gain or enrichment, but to make things right with the world.

Women caught in the spotlight struggling beneath hanging nooses, buckets of huge bones, filmed close-ups of masked creatures consuming massive slices of cream cake, drab uniforms reminiscent of prison garb and scenes of gender violence make up a collage of images that fill one with distaste and sadness. Yet in this place of desolate remembrance, of the past and bleak forecast of the future, the human spirit continues to strive and to survive.

The dancers, namely Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson, Zinhle Nzama, Sifiso Khumalo, Tshediso and Sifiso Majola put in committed energy and worked the various scenes with great sincerity. It was wonderful to see them revelling in the theatricality of Gouldie’s piece and expressing the sombre shadows of reality in Loots’ work. Mention must be made of the inspired and appropriate lighting by Wesley Maheery.  

Fragile is a feather in Flatfoot’s cap and anyone interested in our history, present and future should go and see it. 



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