Ballet Mantsoe’s cultural dance

Mantsoe’s cultural dance

While many feel compelled to describe his work as ‘Afro-fusion’ or ‘African Contemporary’, it’s difficult to put words to Vincent Mantsoe’s style. “It’s something that goes beyond technique–it brings an element of spirituality,” says Mantsoe. Mantsoe is a South-African born dancer and choreographer who has travelled the globe to study his art. His style has been informed by multiple disciplines, from classical ballet and Tai Chi. And though Mantsoe currently lives and works in France, he remains firmly rooted in South Africa.

His cultural heritage is deeply important to him and strongly evident in San, a dance production which interprets the journey and struggle of the nomadic, Khoi-San people. Reflecting Mantsoe’s eclecticism, the performance incorporates the poetry from Rumi and is set to Iranian music using traditional Persian instruments.

The piece talks about both individuality and community. In this way, it is not just about the Khoi-San, but about the human experience in general. “San is merely a point of departure for what all humankind has come across,” says Mantsoe. The struggle of the Khoi-San is not unique to their culture, but their story is a strong metaphor for Mantsoe, who found inspiration for the performance from a book he came across, Voices of the San. Themes of travelling, the challenge of finding new life, and the idea of marking a territory are all suggested through the choreography. Props, sets and elaborate costumes are not used; rather, the story is expressed through the movement.

It took two years for Mantsoe to develop this piece as he researched and reflected on the story of the Khoi-San. Known primarily as a soloist, Mantsoe also faced the challenge of finding the right dancers for the piece. It was important that the dancers understood Mantsoe’s style and approach. However, this didn’t mean they needed to mirror his style.

For this dynamic artist, who often goes into trance when he’s performing, dance is a deeply personal experience. It’s an opportunity to trace a vast cultural and stylistic cartography. Mantsoe, who was given his first major opportunity as a 1995 Standard Bank Young Artist recipient, is passionate about teaching, which remains particularly close to his heart. “It would be a shame to see dancing disappear or to see a lack of creativity in choreography,” said Mantsoe.

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