Despite the difference in their ages, there is a comfortable commonality between Lebo Mashile and Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser when they speak about their collaboration for Threads, a dance and poetry production opening tonight.
The two met in 2003 and began working on the production in 2007. For Glasser, who founded Moving Into Dance Mophatong more than 30 years ago, this is the first time that she has conceptualised a production from the beginning with someone else.
“We want audiences to come and just be amazed,” says Glasser.
The setting of the production is integral, with the stage draped with rope threads.
Mashile says: “The threads are a metaphor for the process of production, especially for artists. It’s a weaving together of memories, dreams and values in your life, which we do as individuals, as well as when we come together in relationships and a community. The production is a gamut of emotions, from intense pain, to humour, love and celebration.”
Dance and politics
Glasser, originally from Polokwane, founded her dance company in 1978 after returning from London.
The dance company took on dancers of all races, which was taboo at the time, launching many famous dancers, such as Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe, who was awarded the FNB Vita best choreographer for Phokwane and best performance by a male dancer in 1998.
“I knew that if I stayed in South Africa, I had to quite literally break the threads. Essentially I’m an artist, a dance teacher and choreographer, but politics were a part of it. I was interested in integration on many levels, between black and white, African and western art forms, and integration of mind and body.”
The company, which started in Glasser’s garage, has grown considerably in the last three decades and, as Mashile says proudly, “many black esteemed dancers have come out of this institution.
The company goes into townships and teaches people to dance. They are educators and intellectuals.”
Poet, actress, producer and performer Mashile grew up in the United States while her parents were in exile. She returned to South Africa when she was 16.
She has written all of the poetry for the production as well as learnt some new things about performing, dancing − and about herself as a writer.
“I’ve learnt to inhabit my own body, that the body has its own voice, it has a language. It isn’t words but it is words, it’s a text. I have found my physical and internal locus. I have also realised the commitment it takes to be a dancer.”
With choreography enriched by their associates such as Sonia Radebe, Muzi Shili, Gregory Maqomo and Jerry Mofokeng, what genre of dance can we see in this production?
“It doesn’t really have a name − it’s theatrical, it’s poetry, it’s dancing.”
Threads’ showcasing at this year’s Festival is like reaching the top of a mountain for Glasser: “Threads is a pinnacle of MIDM’s journey and embodies aspects of creation.”
What can audiences expect?
“It’s really different, I think. You don’t have to be a dance fundi to enjoy the show, it cuts across all artistic disciplines and that’s the magic of it.”
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