Catching waves in “ONDA — into the unknown”
By Lebogang Tswelapele Chauke
ONDA — into the unknown is a collaborative piece by Hannah Ma and Sebastian M. Purfürst with the hannahma dance company (Germany) featuring on the “European and American Crossings” platform, forming part of the 23rd JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. The performance was inspired by their research into human interconnectedness and subconscious behaviour towards nature and their relationship with the world around them.
The performance makes use of a stage divided into three parts — one where the man playing the guitar is standing; centre stage where most lighting is offered and the dark recesses where the other performers disappear into, creating feelings of ambiguity. The longshot camera angle reveals the overall setting of the performance and exposes “the anthropocentric background that sets the themes of nature and wildlife”, while the close-up angle showcases the performers’ facial expressions that reveal their yearning for stillness and belonging.
The performance starts off with what we have now come to call the “new normal”, with performers walking onto the stage wearing matching black tracksuits and masks — they soon take the masks and socks off at the centre stage and throw them to the audience while a ritualistic soundscape begins to play in the background. The repeated movements of the four performers swaying their bodies from side to side resonated with my mind’s restlessness after arriving at home and taking off my clothes and mask and asking myself if was able to keep a reasonable distance from other people? Or if I was in contact with someone who might have had Covid-19 and exposed myself? This marked a transition from being present and conscious to the mind’s unconscious world of confusion; the constant need for stability and the struggles of adapting to an altered state.
The undulating seaweed background juxtaposed with the soundscape of ocean waves and wild waves of the air controlled the movement tempo — when the sound stopped the performers become still, started embracing each other, picking each other up and undressing one another. When the raining sounds gained momentum, the performers’ urgency heightened as they ran back and forth, slapping and pushing one another onto the stage following the pulse of the thrashing rain and ocean waves. This depicts the relationship between humans and nature and how nature has ultimate control over our movements and state of mind; how movement and rhythm is connected to sound.
ONDA is an intense reminder to pay more attention to nature and the natural soundscapes that it provides — this is nature’s way of communicating its feelings of discomfort towards humankind — and how humanity’s failure to pay attention leads to chaos and conflict in the space.