The final bow

2012-03-02 11:01

The yearly Joburg dance extravaganza, Dance Umbrella, comes to a close today.

This year, the organisers put on a crackerjack collection of new works by some of South Africa’s most innovative choreographers, while bringing back one of the festival’s biggest hits – Robyn Orlin’s Daddy, I’ve Seen This Piece Six Times Before, And I Still Don’t Know Why They’re Hurting Each Other – which was commissioned for the 1999 Dance Umbrella. The festival also makes space for new talents in the art form with the Stepping Stones programme.

Even the most dedicated dance lover would have been hard-pressed to see everything on the varied and jam-packed bill. I had to be content with three pieces – Gregory Maqoma’s breathtaking new piece, Exit/Exist, which takes the audience back in time to the Xhosa wars that began in 1779 and ended in 1879 with the loss of people’s lives, land and cattle.

Maqoma found his inspiration in a chief with whom he shares a name – a man who resisted valiantly before dying a mysterious death on Robben Island. With haunting music composed by Simphiwe Dana and an a cappella group to create the rhythm of the piece, his exquisite moving form recreates the heroic story of this chief. Beautiful and poignant, it is a triumph of dance’s non-verbal storytelling power.

It’s in direct contrast is Mark Hawkin’s new piece, Dirty Laundry. Ridiculous good fun, it mashes together cabaret, burlesque, ballet and contemporary dance to imagine a series of vignettes that loosely move around the concept of dirty laundry – the metaphorical kind.

Today, as the curtain falls on this year’s festival, I will be at Dada Masilo’s new show, Death and the Maidens, at The Dance Factory from 2pm. Known for her cutting edge reinterpretation of classic ballets such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, Masilo’s new piece is an exposé of tragic heroines, told by a female cast of dancers.

» Today, you can see Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe’s Opera for Fools, which depicts shebeen life in the 1970s and 1980s, at The Market Theatre at 3pm.


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The finale of the festival is Nhlanhla Mahlangu’s Chant at Goethe on Main at 7pm.

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