National-Arts-Festival

A dance about land; a story of anguish and inequality

2018-07-03 17:21

Amaqhawe – Sibonelo Dance Project

Great Hall, Rhodes University

3 and a half stars out of 5

This politically driven piece poses an all-important question in South African politics at the moment: that of land, and when this is likely to be resolved.

As I entered the theatre, the smell of impepho fills the air. I have come to learn that this means you might be in for a creative treat of a spiritual nature, which can’t hurt.

The routines in this performance are fiery and intricate, but perhaps they could have been tighter in terms of the synchronisation between the dancers. That being said, I wouldn’t blame them or choreographer Mzokuthla Gasa – the work was complex and he really pushed his dancers with Amaqhawe. The dancers are all more than capable dancers in their own right as was seen during a segment where they were given room to show off a few solos. The routine used the numbers well, splitting the group of predominantly female dancers into pairs, then into groups of three, and then suddenly shifting up to high gear with the whole group.

The style of this piece was also unapologetic and raw. This was a pure African contemporary piece and no, I’m not talking about simply using a track ladled with a banging drum and passing this off as Afro-contemporary. From the smallest gesture to the most overt combination of moves, the dancers told the story of young Africans – the story of anguish and inequality.

The show intensified as it progressed, the energy building. I would say from the point in the story where the rioting dancers are gunned down, things got buck. So much so that audience members yelled and tried to motivate the artists to delve even further and hit their moves even harder.

The floor work in this performance was on another level. Any part of the routine that involved the dancers being on the ground seemed so rapid and precise. At one point one of the three male dancers flung himself over the body of a female dancer and she caught and moved him over her with her shin. I nearly fell out my seat.

As the crowd left the theatre, the audience seemed uplifted by the performance, almost as though they would start a riot themselves. And why not? After all, Amaqhawe means “heroes” in isiZulu, and this certainly had more than a few people inspired to be just that.

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October 13 2019