“During this moment of complete surrender, each dancer conveys a physical representation of their innermost thoughts and fears” (Photography by Val Adamson)

A dance-off between the mind and spirit

By Kristi-Leigh Gresse

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JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience hosts ACE dance and music in their 25th Anniversary Edition. With their rich history of collaboration with Durban-based company FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY and JOMBA!’s founder and artistic director, Lliane Loots, the inclusion of ACE dance and music in the festival has been eagerly anticipated. Founded by Gail and Ian Parmel, ACE dance and music is a diverse and multicultural company with an extensive global network. They take pride in working with a wide range of talented artists, and their programme “UNKNOWN REALMS” is a true testament to their commitment to showcasing diverse and innovative works that fuse African, Caribbean and Contemporary rhythms. With ACE dance and music’s unique and interwoven tapestry of spirit and mind, they break into liminal space and deliver a performance that leaves an indelible mark.

The double-bill feature of “THE NIGHT BEFORE TOMORROW” choreographed by Serge Aimé Coulibaly and “MANA-THE POWER WITHIN” choreographed by JOMBA! 2022 Legacy artist and beloved South African dance legend Vincent Mantsoe, entitled “UNKNOWN REALMS,” was an intriguing and thought-provoking experience. These two performances were distinctly unique in their concepts, themes, and styles, offering a fascinating glimpse into the multifaceted nature of humanity.

“THE NIGHT BEFORE TOMORROW” is a mesmerising dance-off between the mind and spirit, with the talented ensemble consisting of Angharad Jones-Young, Hannah Woodliffe, Janice Ho, Martina Mancini, Mthokozisi Mkhwanazi, and Thabang Motaung delivering a powerful and poignant performance. Their precise technique and physical prowess are nothing short of extraordinary!

Coulibaly’s “THE NIGHT BEFORE TOMORROW” presents a symbolic night where individuals partake in their final dance before the emergence of a new day, after which they must resume their daily routine as if nothing has happened. During this moment of complete surrender, each dancer conveys a physical representation of their innermost thoughts and fears. The movements are often heavy and distorted, reminiscent of physical manifestations of mental illness. Amidst this, there exist fleeting instances of tenderness that are quickly disrupted by the prominent pain made manifest in physical reactions. As the dancers perform, the interplay between them becomes a tango of fractured minds. James Mackenzie’s ingenious lighting design captures the shadowy depths of an underground club, where individuals can conceal themselves from prying eyes.

“The dancers ground themselves by weighting their pelvis onto the earth, creating roots that allow them to move through the performance space as if vibrating with the energy emanating from the earth’s core — a central component of Mantsoe’s Goba Technique” (Photography by Val Adamson)

Transitioning from the realm of mental discord to the realm of spiritual strength, “MANA-THE POWER WITHIN” is a remarkable and eminently spiritual treasure. The performance immerses the audience in the sacred ceremonial practice of shamanic dance — at once transforming the theatre space into an ancestral space. Mantsoe, the creator of this unique performance, has incorporated elements of Afrofusion and his own spiritual and cultural dance practice to develop a distinctive style. As a descendant of a long line of Sangomas, Mantsoe’s work frequently echoes the ritualistic nature of his ancestral upbringing.

“MANA-THE POWER WITHIN” embodies the ceremonial dance used by many cultures worldwide to achieve a spiritual trance. The dancers ground themselves by weighting their pelvis onto the earth, creating roots that allow them to move through the performance space as if vibrating with the energy emanating from the earth’s core — a central component of Mantsoe’s Goba Technique.

The musical scores for both works are like the vibrant colors for a painter’s canvas. Yvan Talbot and Andy Garbi the respective composers, create soundscapes that envelop us in the performances. Talbot’s brilliant mix of pop culture beats and classical scores establish the setting for the underground club. The atmosphere is surreal as if the frenzied performance is happening solely in the minds of the dancers, fueling narratives of loss and pain. On the other hand, Garbi’s musical prowess shone through in every rhythm and beat that captures the liminality in the work. The score for “MANA” is a wonderland of ritualised musical rhythms, beats, and vocals that accompany the dancers as they embark on a journey through ritual, pushing the boundaries of space and time and our own senses of humanity.

The renowned ACE dance and music company offers exceptional talents in two captivating performances. Durban, there’s only one more performance left, as JOMBA! draws to its close today. Book through Computicket to avoid disappointment.

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JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

25th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 29 August – 10 September 2023