Check in to Hotel

2011-09-30 10:22

Hotel is crazy, absurd and sublime, and it was love at first step for me.

I am always apprehensive about dance. I love it, but I don’t know as much about it as I’d like to.

Mark Hawkins’ Hotel, commissioned for this year’s Dance Umbrella, chased away any fears of “not getting it” within minutes as the manic ringmaster and his leering assistant welcomed me – and the rest of the audience – to “the hotel of the mind”.

Using the disciplined, incredibly flexible and perfectly honed bodies of the dancers from Moving Into Dance Mophatong – Sonia Radebe, Muzi Shili, Fana Tshabalala, Thandi Tshabalala, Thembekile Setiabi, Sunnyboy Motau, Julia Burnham, Teboho Letele and Faith Maseko – the mind-bending journey began.

With Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem of the same name as a starting point, a bride walks on to stage, a groom smokes a cigarette then a gunshot rings out and the craziness begins.

The dancers perform a series of vignettes – some testing the limits of their bodies, others infused with silliness, still more with pure fun.

Each represents a state of mind, an emotion or a subconscious moment.

From aspiration and sexual desire to taboo and beyond, Hawkins’ steps lead the audience down a merry path – with oodles of bizarre lay-bys – that will make you laugh and gasp in awe at what these bodies can do.

In a pair of silver tap shoes, a ridiculous headdress made of dish towels and a funky crocheted maid’s apron, Burnham is the chambermaid. Her haphazard cleaning punctuates the rooms of Hawkins’ colourful mind.

Shili and Fana Tshabalala perform the most beautiful duet, a mesmerising dance of seduction, as the pair slowly shed their clothing and entwine their bodies in the expectation of pleasure.

Cleverly, this unforgettable expression of love has a comical lead-in about being wary of “homosexuals” – according to the instructions, they are everywhere, ready to pounce in their overfriendly way.

Radebe’s solo, though Letele is on stage throughout as a prop, is almost the physical manifestation of thoughts working their way through the mind.

Other memorable moments include Fana Tshabalala’s red-hot fan dance, which looks like something out of The Cell, with echoes of Japanese Kabuki, and plays out like an unruly subconscious.

So often with contemporary dance, it looks Spartan – this one doesn’t. It boasts a new set, multimedia and sumptuous costumes.

There’s lace, glitter and shiny things everywhere. Colour abounds, and the tables and chairs, which are the only props, feel like so much more.

Hotel is a celebration of movement – there’s ballet, tap, contemporary.

Hell, even the Charleston shimmies on stage for a bit too. There is literally something for everyone in this Hotel, so check in and check it out.

» Hotel is on at The Market Theatre’s Main Theatre until October 9. Call 011 832 1641 to book

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