Review: Young Dancers are Far from Amateur at Danscape 2011

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Danscape at Artscape“Attention all teachers, please report to the staff room.”

With the bellow of laughter and applause that rang out as Mbovu Molinga, third year Jazzart trainee, opened the evening with this announcement, I sat back and started to enjoy myself.

I’d been feeling fleetingly apprehensive, even mildly dismayed at the discovery that the show I was about to watch starred dancers with an average age of 13. So it was enjoyably ironic that the entire show was built around the notion of it being a parent / teacher meeting, with audience members being addressed as friends, parents and members of the governing body.

The opening of the 2011 Danscape showcase epitomised the light-heartedness with which the show had been approached. And yet it was by no means an amateur production. The show consisted of 10 pieces that enveloped all the senses into a rich display of expression, feeling and culture through dance. The body speaks, and the audience was treated to a true display of the talent and potential in our youth. I did not feel robbed or cheated in any way that most of the dancers were between 10 and 16 years old.

Two pieces stood out for me. The first – Wrong Station by Sibonelo Dance Project – was simply out of this world. It opened with a cocoon-like structure upstage right from which emerged the dancers as alien creatures. I struggled to remind myself of the young age of the dancers, so impressive was their dedication and impeccable timing. Choreographer Mzokuthula Gasa explored the space age concept beautifully with erratic movement and fragmented phrases of movement. The space age theme, the beautiful lighting, and the simple yet elegant set and costume design were rewarded with a massive round of applause and bravos from the audience.

And the finale piece was also breathtaking. In Couch by Jazzart Dance Theatre, a simple red couch served as a centre piece draped in flowing movement by five dancers who owned the space without effort. A grand jeté by Elvis Sibeko was an epitome of the level of technique, dedication and passion of these young dancers, and had the audience gasping. In particular, choreographer Ziyanda Mancam deserves congratulations for her sophisticated expression of dance technique and her elegant use of space and architecture.

Whether you know anything about grand jetés, attitudes or leaps, you will walk away with a fuzzy feeling of joy from this beautiful expression of what the youth are capable of achieving. This is a true celebration of dance. Bring the children along. They’ll love this one.

Boniswa Sidwaba

Danscape 2011 runs at the Artscape Arena Theatre from 7 to 10 July 2011. It is a Jazzart Dance Theatre production in collaboration with Kwamashu School of Dance Theatre, La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre & Wilvan School of Dance, Cape Academy of Performing Arts, Cafda Youth Dance Company, Sibonelo Dance Project, Relay Productions, Dance for All, iKapa Outreach Project and Vadhini Indian Arts Academy.

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