Chit Chat: Sello Pesa

2011-09-02 14:56

Sello Pesa is the artistic director of Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre and his work, which includes After Tears and Time of the Small Berries, is driven by his interest in the changes and challenges of living in South Africa.

His new piece is based on a Sepedi idiom – Tshwene ga e ipone Makopo (It’s hard for people to notice their own mistakes but they always notice the mistakes in others).

A well-travelled dancer and sought-after teacher, Pesa has been commissioned to choreograph pieces for the American Dance Festival, as well as for Russia’s Small World Festival and our very own Dance Umbrella.

His latest piece is part of Goethe-Institut SA’s über(W)unden – Art in Troubled Times programme.

How do you start the process of creating a new piece of contemporary dance, and what is your new piece, Tshwene ga e ipone Makopo, about?

It differs. If I have the time I start with an idea. If it’s site specific, I go to the space and work with the complexities of the site.

Tshwene ga e ipone Makopo is about trauma. It’s about inferiority complexes, which is part of my trauma.

It’s not only about race, but also the words and use of language when talking to people; it’s about being too tall, too short, too big, too small.

Why are you not performing in this piece?
For the challenge, I decided to be outside this piece. I don’t know how it will work yet, it’s still a process.

I will know after the first performance. I also tried to work with different artists, people I don’t know.

It’s a challenge and brings something new to the work. The interesting things they raise, raise other things in the process.

One of the highlights of this year’s New Dance is that Spanish choreographer La Ribot is performing. Her work is described as “organised as a system allowing her to do research, and to develop and question the temporal, spatial and conceptual limits of dance”. What about her work is arresting?
I saw her work in Berlin, and I found it very interesting, especially to still be performing at her age. She challenges the meaning of performance, of entertainment.

She squeezes the rules, finding solutions to the stereotypes of what is expected of dancers.

What is the value of a contemporary dance festival for you and for fans of the artform?
Contemporary dance used to refer to those who had broken away from ballet. It’s so much more than that now.

Festivals like New Dance push the point that there are different ways to approach performance. People can come and see new things; not arrive with a conclusion before seeing the work.

Many people fear the artform because it is perceived as difficult to understand and the idiom
of storytelling is different.
What do you say to that?
What choreographers are doing is not prescriptive. It’s about finding new ways to look at things, new ideas and solutions.

I find it refreshing when I don’t know what it is all about. People say I don’t understand this, but it is about always learning.

What are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival?
I try to see all of the works.

I am curious about the new generation; are they worrying about filling seats? I want to see how brave the new generation are now. They used to be afraid to push boundaries. I am fascinated to see La Ribot for this reason, to see her notions.

What is the most important challenge you face in your chosen field?
The most important thing is that there are solutions. There are reasons for site-specific works, but the limitations shouldn’t stop you, but rather drive you to find solutions.

It goes beyond the body and what it can do, it’s about the work and trying something different.

What’s your advice to audiences who come to the festival and see works like yours and La Ribot’s?
Challenge the things you know and the way you understand them. Shake your complacency.

» The New Dance 2011 Festival is on until September 18 at The Dance Factory and at Goethe on Main. Peso’s Tshwene ga e ipone Makopo is at the Market Hall, 17 Diagonal Street, on September 10-11 at 5pm. La Ribot’s Mariachi Nr 17
is on September 13 at 11am; Paradistinguidas is on September 14 at 7.30pm (both at The Dance Factory); and Laughing Hole is on September 17 at Goethe on Main at 2.30pm. Call 082 570 3083 for a full programme

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