Dance Sinister dancing in the night

Sinister dancing in the night

Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) this year presents two works, Ngizwise and Man Longing, in a double bill that both delights and strikes terror in the hearts of its audience.

Man Longing, choreographed by Sunnyboy Mandla Motau, is a harrowing piece that explores the sinister drug-laced world of human trafficking through a combination of street and African dance that MIDM has crafted into a unique style over its 37 years.

From the minute we glimpse a chair strung with syringes on the smokey stage dotted with the oversized plaid bags ubiquitous in South Africa, we know we are in for a rocky ride. The story begins slowly, with a tatty workman delivering more of the bags to the stage.

“I see faces, changing faces, changing like ages,” women’s voices are heard repeating endlessly in a round. Police sirens swirl and yellow chalk lines are drawn around a body. As the piece gets under way, the six characters, who represent innocent bystanders, hardened sex workers, and their pimps, are now zombies, now street fighters. They struggle, fight and throw themselves around each other frenetically to drive
home the choreographer’s point. The dramatic climax is magnificently danced by the troupe using elements of hip-hop and African dance to create an unforgettable scene.

Mojela Theresa in the dance production Man Longing in Alec Mullins Hall venue in Grahamstown on 10 July 2015; at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Choreographed by Sunnboy Madla Motau , Man Longing uses dance and theatre to tell the story of the horrors of human trafficking. (Photo: CUEPIX/Niamh Walsh-Vorster)

Mojela Theresa in the dance production Man Longing in Alec Mullins Hall venue in Grahamstown on 10 July 2015; at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Choreographed by Sunnboy Madla Motau , Man Longing uses dance and theatre to tell the story of the horrors of human trafficking. (Photo: CUEPIX/Niamh Walsh-Vorster)

The piece winds down to a chilling conclusion with two of the women repeating the opening lines.

The double bill opens with Ngizwise, which was choreographed by MIDM’s Sonia Thandazile Radebe and Jennifer Dallas of KEMI Contemporary Dance Projects, Canada.

The choreography lovingly creates a light, intimate South African portrait woven from voices of the so-called born-free generation. This piece, too, begins slowly, with four young men sitting around, shooting the shit on black plastic crates. Gradually the audience becomes aware that this is it and quietens down.

Still, the action is in no hurry. The guys strip down to their drawers, to the delight of the women in the audience, but then pull on sweats. They chat and laugh, endlessly rearranging the crates and placing green apples on them. They are going nowhere slowly, to the tune of three notes on the piano and a heavy foot on the pedal.

The piece unfolds in a series of dramatic dance moments that are intensely physical and beautiful to watch. At one point the men don long skirts and dance sensually, muscular bodies creating magnificent lines. A scene in which a long piece of cloth becomes a turban is delightfully suggestive.

In what seems to be a trend at this Festival, the dance is heavy on speech: isiZulu and isiXhosa. Unique to this piece is that the lines are greeted by delighted laughter and leg slapping. The dancers create a delightful, light-hearted piece that often resembles a litter of puppies playing, and sometimes verges on slapstick, but that kept the crowd in stitches throughout.

Anna Christensen
Cue contributing editor

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