Sitting in the intimate Alexander Bar Theatre, not knowing what to expect from a play with such a politically charged title, I didn’t think I’d be blown away by one of the best shows I’ve seen. Created and performed by Jared Musiker, Asisipho Malunga and Londiwe Khoza, it’s a largely satirical dance-play that uses on-point humour and personal narrative to critique the South African dance industry.
Rather than launching straight into a full-frontal attack on ballet, the dancers give us insights into the various perceptions people have of what dancers do, from the stereotypes perpetuated by friends, family, critics and the government, to those who think all dancers are cabaret artists. They poke fun at these perceptions as well as at themselves before opening up about being a so-called ‘athlete of God’, thus making their call for revolution all the more effective. Khoza’s story is particularly poignant with her history of being used as the token black ballerina to bring in funding. She has some of the greatest dancing talent in South Africa (only a glimpse of which is seen in the play) yet struggles to find a place in an industry that sees her as too black on one hand and not ‘African’ enough on the other. All the performers act well, especially Musiker, who morphs into a variety of caricatured teachers, choreographers and dance enthusiasts.
Though some aspects of the technical production are a bit rough around the edges, it all adds to the rawness of a show that is sick of the attempt to dazzle you, that doesn’t really even care what you think of it, but insists on making you question whether there is a future for dance, and what that future should look like.
It’s a hilarious and thought-provoking work with a few inside jokes that might fly over the heads of some audience members, but it will undoubtedly alter many people’s ideas about the reality of being a dancer. Performed just after we’ve seen the effect the rallying youth can have in South Africa, #BalletMustFall is hopefully only a first taste of young artists coming together to fight for a much-needed revolution in the South African dance industry.
#BalletMustFall ran at Alexander Bar Café and Theatre from 7 to 9 January 2016.