an excerpt from Jo’burg choreographer Fana Tshabalala’s “Indumba” made in 2017 for Deeply Rooted Dance Theater will screen as part of the Digital JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience’s “Legacy” Platform (Photograph: Ken Carl)

Deeply Rooted enthralls at JOMBA!

By Samantha Daly (Guest Writer)

Long-time JOMBA! favourites and collaborators, Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT), are always one of my most anticipated performances. I adore the way the company, under the artistic directorship of Nicole Clarke-Springer, weaves a myriad of different dance styles into one rich, dynamic tapestry of performance which has me so completely enthralled in every second of the performance that I forget to blink!…And blink you must not because to miss even a step of this company’s lively, fast-paced, slick performances is nothing short of a tragedy.

Strong words I know (and some may argue a little dramatic), but forgive me. A move away from my hometown of Durban and my much-beloved UKZN Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the home of JOMBA! and the place where my love story with contemporary dance began, has meant I’ve been MIA at the JOMBA! festival for 5 years. And while the toll of COVID-19 is still being tallied around the world, I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude that it allows me to attend one of my favourite festivals since this year’s performances are available online to all lovers of the festival, no matter how far from the home of JOMBA! (I’m looking at you dear, sweet Sneddon Theatre) time may have carried us.

This year, DRDT offer JOMBA! audiences three excerpts from some of their most recent works:

Indumba, is the adapted work of Fana Tshabala’s original choreography which was recreated for an American audience during a three-week residency with DRDT in 2017. This is a highly emotive and moving piece. The performance opens with a dark stage strewn with the spasmic moving of white bodies; an ominous, unmoving figure overlooks the scene pensively. The deep, echoing single-note music and smoke creates an eerie, threatening tone. Performers move erratically and writhe violently on stage. The pained cries from the performers and disjointed music make for an unsettling and uneasy viewing, at times. Performers take turns to dance while others sit along the edge of the stage watching the others, creating a communal sense of sharing in painful memory as a means of achieving catharsis and healing. The performance has a ghost-like feel to it which makes sense, considering the piece was originally created to cast light upon the ongoing impact of unresolved apartheid politics in South Africa. As the country and her people are haunted by the legacy of a violent and brutal past, so too the audience is left with a haunting, uneasy feeling which forces them to reckon with an uncomfortable history.

Parallel Lives, choreographed by Gary Abbott, provides a look into the shared life-changing experiences of poor, working women. The performance begins with a dark stage. As the lights come up we see a lonely figure showered in a soft blue light. She moves smoothly, purposefully, cutting thorough the blue light with clean lines and precise movements. She is soon joined by a group of women whose shared stories are to be told. The performance playfully uses variations in direction and pace to create an alluring charm.

Dance Revival (Goshan Excerpt) is an uplifting, exuberant piece, choreographed by Tshediso Kabulu, which explores themes of power, oppression and deliverance. I dare you to not let the hypnotic rhythm of the accompanying music of gospel artist, Donald Lawrence, get your head bobbing or shoulder popping. The performers move with precision as they seamlessly switch between various African and American dance styles (blink and you’ll miss the sneaky Gwara Gwara). Add to that the lively shouts and jiving of the vocalists in the background and the performance is truly a celebration of the majestical way in which the human body can move and excite through exploring age-old themes on stage.

Catch the screenings of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s performances on Wednesday 26 August at 19:00 & Thursday 27 August at 12:00 (SAST): https://jomba.ukzn.ac.za/whats-on-today/

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JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

24th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 30 August – 11 September 2022 (hybrid festival)