“Blue Journey” screens as part of INTRODANS’s Legacy offerings at Digital JOMBA! (Photograph Hans Gerritsen)

Embodied Effervescence

By Julia Wilson (Guest Writer)

This year’s digital platform sees INTRODANS, long time sweethearts of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, bringing four distinct and vibrant stage works to our screens.

While originally created for stage and then filmed, the works are intertwined within a digital landscape that blends seamlessly with the action of the dancers on stage. Film is an inextricable element in three of the works, providing another surface upon which to, quite literally, play.

Blue Journey (David Middendorp), which premiered in 2008, is a seamless work choreographed to haunting music by the likes of Radiohead. It tricks the viewer with shadow imagery that converges and then diverges with the dancers, who seem to depict a kind of departure from their shadow selves as they weave in and out of sync with the images projected behind them. The fantastic graphics elevate the dancers’ bodies to a transcendence from gravity: leaps transform into full flight, and bodies on stage emit frequencies to interact with.

Face Machine (David Middendorp) is a delightfully exploratory departure from our obsession with the selfie. Two cameras are used to great effect to project enormous reproductions of the dancers’ faces as well as a bird’s eye view of the stage. The two interact as bodies transform the face projected, tickling, pushing, rolling over and manipulating. The result is deeply comical and fresh.

In viewing Swingle Sisters (Alexander Ekman), I could not help but feel that a mirror was being held up to our quarantined selves. The dancers cough repeatedly to create a rhythmic soundscape as they sweep across the stage, seemingly seated at a table. Later in the work, two dancers lounge at front-of-stage as a third creates total mayhem with milk, popcorn and eggs. While the work was created pre-COVID, I felt like I was seeing myself in isolation, drinking milk from the bottle (because no-one is coming for tea) and endlessly snacking and lazing around as we wait for the season to pass. The work is delightfully funny, and perfectly performed by the severe, nonplussed dancers who rack their lungs percussively.

World Leaders, also choreographed by Middendorp, is a departure from the generally upbeat offerings that make up INTRODANS’ presentation this year. Lending from the gestures of politicians, the work is set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop of faceless or hooded bodies, with a soundtrack that is disconcerting and sparse initially. The fists pounded on politicians’ desks transform into an ape-like gait, as what sounds like a war drum beats in an upsettingly off-canter rhythm. Conversations emerge between bodies as the sound takes soulful form, as the dancers battle it out before a stark landscape of bodies. They become puppets, manipulated by the other, as the work evolves. There is a sense that the dancers are immersed in a combative video game, and the merging of technology and live performance is used to haunting effect.

INTRODANS, old friends of the festival, have brought to the table works that are on the cusp of what is possible when combining live and digital landscapes. With perfect technique, and comedic timing worthy of SNL, The company never fails to pack a punch and delight audiences the world over. A must see for audiences old and young, this programme offers a platter of delights that will intrigue, inspire and demand your attention.

INTRODANS’s programme streams for free at 19:00 (SAST) on 4 September with a repeat streaming at 12:00 (SAST) on 5 September. Visit http://www.jomba.ukzn.ac.za for details on the festival programme for streaming links.

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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)