Review: Grant and Shaun

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Review: Grant and ShaunGrant and Shaun: Dance Double Bill is one of the best contemporary dance works Cape Town has seen for a long while. Performed in the intimate Baxter Flipside theatre, it is made up of two dance works: The Architecture of Tears by Ananda Fuchs and Most Honest Man by Mdu Kweyama.

In both pieces Grant van Ster and Shaun Oelf demonstrate why they are such highly sought-after contemporary dancers. Above and beyond their own individual qualities, they both possess an extraordinary fluidity and softness in their dancing while still remaining strong and grounded, allowing them to execute more aggressive movement sequences with equal aplomb.

This boneless fluidity is seen most clearly in the beautifully intricate and intertwining partner work of The Architecture of Tears which explores ideas of human attraction. Throughout much of this captivating piece – in which van Ster and Oelf are joined by Ciara Barron – the three dancers move as one organism, seamlessly weaving through and around one another, effortlessly sliding into lifts as if unaffected by gravity.

Van Ster in particular shows a superhuman ability to land soundlessly, even having been thrown two metres in the air. Barron holds her own alongside the explosive energies of van Ster and Oelf, matching them step for step in the unison sections and performing with a tangible sincerity that steers the audience through the emotions explored in the piece. Despite somewhat disruptive scene changes, the piece nontheless builds up momentum, with the dancers finally plaiting through one other with an increasing vigour stopped only by a final cathartic embrace, a blissful release of tension and emotion. The subsequent Latin-infused sequence, while being fun and high energy, rather detracts from the beautiful poignancy of that final moment.

In Most Honest Man the sandbags lying around on the floor and the army jackets suspended from the rig allude to the contextual setting of Shakespeare’s Othello, but perhaps because the costumes and set designs are heavily suggestive of war, the crucial aspect of sexual jealousy comes across merely as an element of greed and war games. Nonetheless this is a piece packed with drama and fluctuating emotions, emphasised by live accompaniment. The choreography is once again powerful, its most exciting moments undoubtedly being its impressive partner work. At one breathtaking moment Oelf leaps in a single movement onto van Ster’s shoulders, landing in a perfectly balanced crouch without any support.

This double bill is a fantastic opportunity to see these two massively skilled and performative dancers in two well-crafted pieces – a highlight of the 2015 dance season.

Shirley-Anne Bezuidenhout

Grant and Shaun: Dance Double Bill runs at the Baxter Theatre Flipside 9 to 18 April 2015.

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