By BRUCE DENNILL
Impact No. 1 / Tshwane Dance Theatre, Cape Dance Company and Moving Into Dance Mophatong / Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
When it is possible to see a full-scale contemporary dance programme on one of South Africa’s major stages, it becomes clearer than ever that there is room for a far greater number of such productions in the theatrical calendar.
A partnership rather than a collaboration – the three companies involved each presented a piece they’d performed before with their own dancers, rather than combining forces or revealing new work, Impact No. 1 nevertheless shows how important it is for artists to work together and get on stage rather than being precious and complaining about a lack of opportunity.
The three works on offer were very different. The opener was Jose Agudo’s A Thousand Shepherds, which saw the Cape Dance Company, clad in long monastic robes, explore community and culture, along with the rituals that tend to begin and become formalised as human beings spend time together. It’s a fairly sombre piece in lighting and musical terms, though there are moments when the ensemble sparked collectively into an energetic motif.
Belinda Nusser’s Phase 5 Confronted, danced by Tshwane Dance Theatre, felt more modern in every way, with a smaller cast looking at conformity and attempts to break out of it. The greater space and time allowed to individual dancers meant each soloist had ample opportunity to impress, but a disconnected narrative (if indeed you could determine one at all) meant that the flow of the piece was somewhat stunted.
This was never an issue in the night’s final performance, an updated version of Alfred Hinkel’s exuberant Bolero, performed by Moving Into Dance Mophatong, which seems now to more about the sheer joy of being talented, beautiful and African than about the politics that inspired it (the Immorality Act chief among them) in the Seventies. High-spirited shouting, huge vertical leaps, recognisably local traditions like gum-boot dancing and authentic smiles plastered across everyone’s faces channelled the cast’s joy to the audience, meaning that the latter left with a smile on their collective face.
Three different pieces; three different sets of emotions and intents – an interesting ride.