Jabu Siphika performs in her work “Ya Kutosha” for the Digital JOMBA! Edge

JOMBA! 2020 Opening Night brings dancing everyone should be watching

The JOMBA! 2020 Digital Edge Programme highlights dance as an artistic practice and engine for social justice. Under the theme of “intimacies of isolation”, nine artists offer a thrilling glimpse into their distinct processes. With an achingly relevant theme, the program marries poetry and music to secure a point of entry for all who watch. The pieces feel akin to vignettes that gently breeze in and out, offering a reassuring yet suspenseful tone of what comes next.

The evening opens on “Ya Kutosha”, a palpable solo on rape culture from Jabu Siphika. Sounds reminiscent of water dripping from a faucet pound while Siphika franticly hides her body behind her hands and objects that serve as means of protection. Black suffering is up close, never wavering as much as we may want it to (The program provides a viewer discretion warning, but it should be noted this piece ends in an act of self-harm.) If you view in conversation with the program’s closing piece, Zinhle Nzama’s “Shadow” depicts Nzama and Kirsty Ndawo mirroring one another. Their bond reverberates solidarity where each is equally present and valued. With one based in lightness and the other in darkness, bookending the festival with these works stresses the importance of witnessing Black experiences.

A range of powerful duos emerge in between, creating another set of bookends to feast our eyes on. Sandile Mkhize’s “Time” finds Mkhize and Cue Ngema struggling to stay connected among red-and-white weaved fabric fences and clouds of smoke. The dancers fight physical and emotional barriers which makes their reunion even sweeter. In “Walls”, Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo shares a dance with his young daughter, Lethiwe Zamantungwa Nzama, guaranteed to make you smile. Each playfully creates their own space while existing together. Nzama’s talents remarkably shine through with support from her well-matched mentor. In “Space of Colour”, Tshediso Kabulu and Motlatsi Khotle traverse dynamic settings from wheat fields at sunset to a showdown in a trashed lot. Groovy music from Anelisa Stuurman and poetry interspersed from Khwezi Becker ground the mood when time feels scattered.

The recurring theme of loneliness and different coping mechanisms haunt the remaining works. Kristi-Leigh Gresse’s “Fellow…” uses silence to illuminate self-alienation. An upbeat score and a swift blend of moving parts make for a brief, but delightful jaunt in Tegan Peacock’s “Control-Alt-Delete” and its exploration of restlessness. In “Kairos”, Leagan Peffer searches for refuge from the mixed sensations of love. Peffer ties in media perception, with voiceovers of film quotes including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Notebook. In “U n g a n y a k u m”, Nomcebisi Moyikwa holds an enigmatic presence within a work that leaves more questions than answers.

Running a little under two hours, this serves as a satisfying introduction into JOMBA! If you missed this exhilarating premiere, view it now.

23rd annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 24 August – 5 September 2021 (digital festival)