ACE Dance and Music perform feature their work TEN at JOMBA! (Photograph Supplied)


Dr. Sarahleigh Castelyn (Guest Writer)


The dancers move towards us, stamping their feet, looking directly at us. The textured movement of their bodies is echoed by the backdrop. They move together. They move apart. Their arms extend. They grasp. Their hands draw to their bodies what we cannot see. They gaze at it. They focus on it. They hold it. Their movements melt the space around themselves. Their hands push their face to the floor. Their shadows on the backdrop fill the area; the dancers aren’t alone. There is tension. There is partnership. There is balance. There is violence. They are sometimes individuals. They are sometimes a community. They are sometimes moving together. They are sometimes moving apart. They shift. They give. They take. There is suspension. The spaces in between the real and the imagined. There is denial. There is acceptance. There is both. It just is.

TEN is choreographed by José Agudo and directed by Gail and Ian Parmel with ACE Dance and Music. In this work, there are reverberations of flamenco, of martial arts, of kathak, of contemporary, of ACE’s style. The confluences and convergences of Agudo’s eloquent and sensitive choreography melding with ACE’s particular dance language of Afro-fusion is vividly expressed through the dancers. The work “explores the concepts of moving away and leaving, looking at how and why people choose imagined destinies over the lives they’d always thought they’d live” (ACE Dance and Music website) and this is what makes TEN alluring; how the motifs, their articulation and their concept, reinforce each other. The way the dancers move, their embodiment of these styles and what their bodies say, inspired by global migration, are paired.

ACE Dance and Music are based in Birmingham, UK, and like Durban the home of JOMBA!, Birmingham is a site of migration of people and their dances, and therefore the inclusion of their work TEN as part of JOMBA! 2021 is so apt. Founded in 1996, ACE Dance and Music is much like the acclaimed Durban-based Flatfoot Dance Company, which besides being a touring company, offers “outreach and education programmes and in-house studio dance classes” (ACE Dance and Music website). The collaboration of esteemed choreographer José Agudo of Agudo Dance Company — founded by Artistic Director — José Agudo and Creative Producer — Claire Cunningham (Agudo Dance Company website) — with ACE Dance and Music is highly congruous especially as Agudo is internationally recognised for his choreographic style that incorporates a number of dance styles and techniques such as Flamenco, Kathak and contemporary. This chimes with ACE Music and Dance as the company’s “signature style” (ACE website) integrates contemporary with Afro-fusion. The theme of JOMBA! 2021 is Border Crossings and the inclusion of TEN with its border crossings of dance styles and its theme of “concepts of moving away and leaving” (ACE Dance and Music) adds to JOMBA! 2021’s quality programme. TEN captures that moment between reality and imagined; it captures that space where crossings happen.



JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

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