International performers take the stage to kick off ADF season
Gregory Maqoma/Vuyani Dance Theatre
What South African choreographer/performer Gregory Maqoma achieves in his solo “Exit/Exist” is no mere performance. He transforms himself into his great, great grandfather Jongum-sobomvu Maqoma, a 19th-century warrior chief of the Xhosa people.
He’s supported on this journey by a male quartet of astounding singers, Tobela Mpela, Siphiwe Nkabinde, Xolisile Bongwana and Timothy Moloi, as well as the versatile, accomplished guitarist/composer Guiliano Modarelli.
The singing provides an immediate emotional connection to this story. Vocalists deliver deeply felt, soulful music in the traditional South African a cappella style written by contemporary South African singer/composer Simphiwe Dana.
Modarelli supports the singers and at other times creates a musical landscape that adds to the texture of this work.
Text, projected on a screen, also helps tell the story of Chief Maqoma, who fought to regain the land and cattle the British had stolen from his people.
Gregory Maqoma begins his performance wearing a suit, his back to the audience as he dances and dances. As he rolls his shoulders, his suit jacket wrinkles and looks like a skin he eventually sheds as he removes his suit for a cow skin vest and prepares to do battle. He leaps, whips his arms around, crouches in a warrior’s stance. He searches for the missing cattle and even when he falters, he keeps on walking.
Through rituals, he asks for help. He pours sand to form a circle. He places a shallow, tin bowl on his head and spins.
He expresses frustration as he kneels, repeatedly throwing his chest back, then falling forward and pounding the floor with his hands. He notes deep sorrow by tapping and tapping his chest with his hand.
He waits for the boat that will take him to the prison on Robben Island.
Here, the singing takes on a heart-wrenching, agonized quality.
The text asks the question, “Is there still a tale to tale? Who will tell it? Where will it start?”
And, the answer is now when anyone takes up the struggle for justice in this world.
Vertigo Dance Company
Israel’s Vertigo Dance Company returns to ADF for the second time with Noa Wertheim’s “Vertigo 20.”
Balloons, a three-sided metal wall with benches and unique movements by turns puppet-like and very human, create a celebratory work to mark the 20th the company’s 20th anniversary.
Ran Bagno’s score evokes upbeat circus and traditional, Jewish Klezmer music. Sometimes, the mood is sad with a few horn bleats and out-of-tune piano notes.
Throughout this work, the benches on different levels, provide a place where dancers sometimes perch, as an audience or perhaps as puppets on shelves, waiting for someone to pull their strings. Onstage, mechanical movements also evoke puppets especially when dancers hold arms stiff and bent at the elbow. They also suggest puppets when their range of motion is so exaggerated that no human could really do it. But these dancers do just that when they bent their knees and stretch their legs to impossibly wide stances, then lean way back as though supported by imaginary strings.
In an hypnotic, large group section, dancers’ arm movements take on a flowing quality while legs look flexible as rubber. Other dancers seem suspended, floating in air as they take slow barrel leaps.
Duets enthrall with unusual, tender and humorous partnerings. In one, dancers hold each other by the waist and take turns rocking backwards in a slow, gentle, sensuous see-saw motion. In another duet, there’s a funny, slapstick action and reaction as a woman “kicks” her partner, sitting on his heels, and he bounces up and down as though on springs.
Balloons provide atmosphere and environment for the dancers. A single balloon, tethered high on the wall, glows like the moon. Multiple balloons provide a landscape for dancers to move though. And, at the end, after performers take multiple well-deserved bows and exit the stage, the balloons appear again as if also taking bows.