Review: Baxter Dance Festival 2011

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Baxter Dance FestivalThe annual Baxter Dance Festival, the theatre and its sponsors create opportunities for several schools and dance companies to showcase their works.

Although its aim is presumably to inspire a love of dance in everyone, there are inevitably pieces which are going to be best enjoyed by those who have a deeper knowledge of dance. It was one such piece that was chosen as the finale for the festival opening on Thursday night.

The long awaited piece entitled Paradigm Shift had been commissioned from choreographer Grant van Ster, which of course marked it out as a must-see.   With a backdrop of slashed white elasticized fabric, dancers popped parts of their bodies in and out of the gashes to signify a play between confusion, conquest and tease.  The use of bright lights on the backdrop gave an almost “Brecht” element of nakedness and thereby, perhaps, of truth. On an almost bare stage and with simple lighting, dancers’ silhouettes upon the white backdrop expressed the turmoil of romance and relationships in a way that was both clever and fun, successfully claiming the elements of play passion and perfect poise in the field of dance.

A disappointing feature was the slow music which was almost disjointed from the frantic movement occurring upon stage.  This could be interpreted as an epiphany of contemporary dance and the clash of sound, but it didn’t work for me.

Two other acts for the opening night were Cape Dance Academy’s The Nature of Being and Michelle Reid’s Road to Nowhere, a duet by Ananda Fuchs and Russell Cummings.  Again, it helped to have some background in dance to get the most out of these, and it was clear that the audience’s interest was lost at times. This was epitomised in the duet when, at the point the dance became more theatrical and the twanging of the violins kicked in, spines throughout the crowd were straightened and breaths were held. Sadly, that moment was rather short lived and the piece as a whole failed to connect.  The extraordinary experimental movement, perfectly timed in-cannon jumps and pacified sound of the CDA’s piece were definitely impressive, but it lost its value in the lighting with much of it occurring in the dark. No climax was achieved, but I’d give a definite thumbs up to the intention of the pieces.

The highlight of the evening was Reflection, a solo by Andile Vellem.  A deaf dancer and a member of Remix Dance Company, Vellem, now 35, has been dancing since the age of 5.  After losing his hearing he continued dancing by feeling the vibration of the music not just through the floor boards but, he claims,  within his rhythmic soul. Vellem says that his gift of being fluid up on stage is “for others to recognise dance as a place that is home and a moment where he can express the way he feels”.

So even in an evening that tended towards the highbrow, there were moments that touched everyone.  Each of the nights of the festival has a different line-up, and I would urge others to attend at least one night. One is guaranteed at minimum one performance that will reach out to you.

 

Zaid Philander


The Baxter Dance Festival runs 6 to 15 October 2011.

 

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