Val Adamson captures a moment of Flatfoot Dance Company in production for “Unhinged” at this year’s JOMBA!

PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE PSYCHE EXPLORED IN MANUEL’S CHOREOGRAPHY

By Thobile Maphanga (Guest Writer)

Cape Town dancer and choreographer and 2021 Mellon Foundation grant recipient, Yaseen Manuel, has created two dance films for JOMBA! this year. The films, which have both been captured by filmmaker Kieshia Solomon, are cinematically easy on the eye, tenderly following, supporting and capturing the fragility of the mind in body. Manuel’s previous work on the festival has provoked internal interrogations of his personal histories, identities and spirituality as they intersect in a time that is marked by wide reaching instability and unrest. For JOMBA! 2021 he remains in this vein as he offers work both personal, in his solo, and of the collective psyche, in his collaboration with Durban’s Flatfoot Dance Company.

Al Kitab, the solo choreographed and performed by Manuel, opens with the words:

“I serve You.”

“I serve happiness through You.”

“How can I choose one?”

“When I am both.”

Musing on what it might mean to be an artist with/without religion, this film depicts Manuel’s negotiations in trying to answer the question “how can I choose one when I am both?”. I found myself wondering why we have to choose, what these choices might serve, and who they serve?

Threading the personal and religious, his movement language is grounded in the rituals of Islamic prayer, but also circles outward and inward in a push-pull effect that is lightly hypnotic. There are moments of real struggle, where the internal fights are made physical, but it is clear they are struggles with self.

We are not only shown struggle in this dance film, beauty and honest uncontained energy is boldly displayed, echoing in the symbolism of locations chosen and music used. The drum brings us back to certainty as it unleashes the freedom that sets spirits spiralling.

Unhinged with Durban-based Flatfoot Dance Company plunges into the quarters of the mind. As the title suggests, this film captures the spiralling out of an unhinged psyche that is sometimes alone but often tied to faceless others who witness, taunt, imprison and free the rantings of a troubled headspace.

Flatfoot veteran dancers, Jabu Siphika and Sifiso Kitsona Khumalo, are joined by Mthoko Mkhwanazi, Siseko Duba, Sbonga Ndlovu and Ndumiso ‘Digga’ Dube. Together they shape shift a clinically white space as they dance through the four phases of schizophrenia.

Solomon’s cinematography and editing surreptitiously fade into and slip out of delusions creating a sense of calm that is just on the surface. Whilst the bodies, who are sometimes there and sometimes just a figment of imagination, utter self deprecations, point and romanticise things that may or may not be true.

Both films are marked with a whiteness that should engender calm, goodness and purity. The wrapping of the head becomes a signature image and movement that seems to confine the mind to these conditioned meanings. It is interesting to me that in one film the head is wrapped in black and the other in white. I wonder, if perhaps, bringing in more colour and allowing ourselves to be full in our kaleidoscopic mess might not be the choice that frees us.

The CCA’s JOMBA! 2021 runs from 24 August to 5 September and can be navigated free of charge via the website www.jomba.ukzn.ac.za or subscribe to the JOMBA! YouTube channel here: https://www.YouTube.com/Jomba_Dance

A full programme is available via the website.

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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)