Jazzart Dance Theatre – one of South Africa’s leading dance companies – continues to take on the brand of Proudly South African as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. An African-contemporary production, ‘Destination…Lerato’ showcases Jazzart’s fifth group of trainees and is directed by Ina Wichterich.
Jazzart is renowned for strong, captivating opening scenes and the audience was not disappointed. Two lovers (Ntombizandile Nonyati and Bongani Bonase) are portrayed in a world of their own, separated from the other dancers by a high fence, with only the troubled mother figure (singer Thumeka Mzayiya) nearby.
Nonyati symbolizes the concept of love by wearing a long red dress. Evidently in a confused state she tears at a tissue while repeating the famous words ‘he loves me…he loves me not…’ When she finally decides that she is loved, the whole stage is set alight by her happiness. The dancers run out from behind the fence and entertain with a jolly, feel-good dance routine. The men form a clique and perform a very demanding piece of choreography, while throwing and catching coins, to the delight of the girls.
Abruptly the scene changes and a different mood is set: fear. Each dancer is exposed under the spotlight and asked what it is that they fear most. To ask 15 dancers the same question without boring the audience is a challenge to which the company rises effortlessly, each dancer revealing not only a high standard of professional dance, but also impressive acting abilities. One cannot but believe the honesty of their emotions.
The exposure to light starts a chain reaction of crying and eventually the dancers, in a frenzied emotional state, rock their bodies forward and back while stamping their feet. In this process the dancers remove their shoes as if on holy ground. The singer Mzayiya re-enters the stage with a bowl of hot water (dry ice) to aid the dancers in their healing process.
Then follows some every day scenes,.. but with a twist. The dancers reclaim their shoes and start a mirror sequence – shaving, putting on make-up, brushing their hair, looking at themselves… but all with their hands in their shoes. The comic results are a reflection of the unnecessary baggage that we all carry around with us, baggage which the dancers are then encouraged to rid themselves of.
Now the mood becomes very relaxed, and the elements of contemporary dance are more dominant than the previous African dance scenes, with more thought applied to the usage of feet. Some technical aspects of the movements are not always carried through, but the sparkling eye connection with the audience conveys a wonderfully passionate energy.
The constant mood changes throughout the production serve to emphasise the rollercoaster lives we lead, in which successes, failures and setbacks are all integral parts of the journey. By the end the dancers are shown to have mastered their fears and are at peace with themselves.
Destination… Lerato leaves much space for creative, individualistic and abstract interpretations. The bare set contributes to the concept of abstract physical theatre and no extra props are needed as the choreography and usage of stage lighting are brilliantly structured to create the atmosphere needed.
Despite some demanding, rhythmic choreography the dancers show no signs of tiring, but thrill the audience with their fast, stamping footwork. For us Destination…Lerato ended with an immediate standing ovation that lasted long after the dancers left the stage.
A big applause for Jazzart Dance Theatre as they continue on their celebrated journey.
Destination… Lerato runs at the Artscape Theatre 8-10 February 2013.