““Nothing Personal” is a dance piece that transcends traditional choreographic structures, embracing the power of improvisation and the raw emotions that emerge in the present” (Photograph by Val Adamson)

Home is where the he(art) is…

By Esese Kunene

--

In a mesmerising celebration of partnership and artistic expression, JOMBA! 2023 presented Virva Talonen solo, “Nothing Personal” as a tribute to her year-long collaboration with Durban’s FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY and this was followed after a short interval by the collaborative “Portable Home”.

With the assistance of esteemed lighting designer Nanni Vapaavuori. Talonen embarked on a remarkable journey of improvisation. She revisits, symbolically, her childhood town in Finland to recreate and embody a dance that transforms her body into a vessel of experiences and memories. “Nothing Personal” is a dance piece that transcends traditional choreographic structures, embracing the power of improvisation and the raw emotions that emerge in the present. Virva Talonen, a talented dancer and artist, skilfully weaves together movements and moments that reflect her personal experiences, creating a heartfelt narrative that certainly resonated with me on a profound level.

To bring “Nothing Personal” to life, Virva Talonen sought the expertise of lighting designer Nanni Vapaavuori who is recognised for her mastery of illuminating spaces. Vapaavuori offered a lighting workshop as part of JOMBA!’s offerings earlier this week and her contribution to the performance added an ethereal quality that enhanced the emotional impact of Talonen’s movements. Through an harmonious collaboration, Talonen and Vapaavuori succeed in creating an immersive environment that captivated spectators and transported us into Talonen’s world of memories. Her journey begins in Finland, in the town where she grew up. She invokes, through her dance, a place filled with cherished memories and significant milestones. As she revisits these meaningful memories of home and location, she imbues her dance with the essence of each experience, dexterously translating them into evocative movements and gestures. The performance becomes a poignant exploration of identity, belonging, and the transformative power of revisiting one’s past. There is an echo in the work of the festival’s curatorial theme for 2023, of “(In)tangible Heritages”, made tangible through Talonen’s embodied presence and memoried performance.

Throughout her solo, Talonen artfully demonstrates how the body can become a vessel for memories and a metaphorical home. By seamlessly intertwining her physicality with her emotions, she unveils a deeply personal and relatable narrative. Her movements serve as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit, as well as the power of dance to transcend language and connect people on an emotional level.

““Portable Home” is a dance piece that challenges traditional notions of what a home represents. In moving beyond physical walls, windows, doors, floors and roof — the work considers more (in)tangible senses of “home””. (Photograph by Val Adamson)

Following a brief interval, we are ushered back in to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre’s auditorium. We are treated to a captivating celebration of the one-year anniversary of collaboration between Talonen and Durban’s illustrious FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY.

The collaborative “Portable Home” began its life last year (2022) when Talonen visited Durban for this unique partnership supported by the Finnish Embassy. Through the art of improvisation, Talonen and the talented FLATFOOT dancers, including Jabu Siphika, Sbonga Ndlovu, Siseko Duba, Sfiso Khumalo, Ndumiso Dube and long-time friend and guest dancer with the company Kirsty Ndawo delve into fluid conceptions of home and its ever-changing definitions. Wesley Maherry’s lighting enhances the atmosphere with its subtle shifts between states illuminating the dancers and supporting their journey together.

They embark on a mesmerising journey that redefines the notion of home as a portable and evolving entity. “Portable Home” is part of a larger network of projects initiated by Talonen and Vapaavuori and they have visited various countries, including Japan, Palestine, Finland and South Africa between 2016–2022 in developing the project that explores (embodied) notions of home.

“Portable Home” is a dance piece that challenges traditional notions of what a home represents. In moving beyond physical walls, windows, doors, floors and roof — the work considers more (in)tangible senses of “home”. The collaborative efforts of Virva Talonen, the FLATFOOT dancers provide audiences a gentle exploration of meanings of home in constant flux. By embracing improvisation, the dancers express the idea that home is not static adapting and evolving alongside our experiences and circumstances.

“Portable Home” thrives on the power of improvisation. By relinquishing structured choreography, the dancers embrace the spontaneity and authenticity that arises in the moment, their immediate presence a vital component in the work. Through their movements, they navigate the intricacies of home, exploring themes of belonging, displacement, and transformation. The freedom of improvisation combined with the demands of being present and responding in the moment add an almost immersive quality to the work while also enabling endless variations of it in any given setting.

Through a carefully crafted interplay of light and shadows, Maherry creates an atmospheric backdrop that complements the dancers’ movements. His lighting design serves as a metaphorical representation of the ever-changing nature of home, illuminating the emotional journey undertaken by the performers.

“Portable Home” challenges preconceived notions of home as a fixed physical space. Instead, it invites audiences to consider home as a concept that transcends boundaries and geographical locations. It challenges the validity of borders (and walls) erected to separate us and gently asks us to consider (or perhaps, reconsider) meanings of “home”.

Through their expressive movements, the dancers evoke a sense of nostalgia, longing, and resilience, highlighting an almost universal human desire for connection and a place to belong. By embracing the fluidity of the concept of home, “Portable Home” encourages viewers to reflect on their own understanding of home and its diverse manifestations.

--

--

JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

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