What I love most about the Baxter Flipside Theatre is its level of intimacy. The stage is merely an extension of the lower ground, allowing for an instant connection between the audience and the performers. Upon walking in, the sound of raindrops echoes around the theatre and a single man is writhing in sluggish yet choreographed agony on the floor as bypassers are doing just that: passing by. The scene is simple, yet riveting. How often do we opt to ignore the besieged, the underprivileged, the struggling? Are we so self-absorbed and plagued by our fast-paced lifestyles that we don’t stop to take a look at the bigger picture or pause to help a human being in need?
I Hit the Ground Running is a complex piece of work that aims to discuss, through contemporary dance and classical music, the ambitious theme of ‘economic growth’. Music composer Tebogo Monnakgotla and dance choreographer Ananda Fuchs spent weeks buried in research, interacting with unemployed youth to craft a production based on the emotions of those attempting to position themselves in the corporate world. “With an ever-increasing financial pressure on human beings today,” comments Fuchs, ” the emergence of a very fragile and often illusive sense of belonging seems to have been created. We hit the ground running until we cannot keep up anymore – it is, quite simply, the human response to economic monstrosity.”
Fuchs’s thoughts are utterly relatable, especially to the youth of my generation. Almost from the moment of our first steps we are encouraged to run faster and faster towards the goal of a ‘good’ career. There is no time for uncertainty or second chances before we make the leap out into the big world… where we have to hit the ground running. With so much pressure and focus put into succeeding in society and creating a name for ourselves, failure is anathema. And this is where the show’s focus falls, accomplishing the feat of portraying these emotions and themes not only melodically, through Monnakgotla’s composition and the musicians’ interpretation of her work, but visually, through Fuchs’s choreography and the dancers’ passion and performance.
Visually, the set is elementary yet effective. Five renowned Swedish musicians command their instruments with flawless technique – flute, cello, violin, saxophone and percussive elements – and propel intricate, haunting melodies throughout the theatre. The five dancers’ movements both match and contrast to the composition of the music, and their sinister and fierce glares penetrate the audience, making us feel that they are looking at and communicating with each of us personally. The talent and ability of each of the musicians and dancers are remarkable, and with such a small cast and intimate theatre setting, it is easy to be aware of the flair of the individual. Grant van Ster’s hulking frame, deep glares and powerful movements dominate the stage, particularly in his twisted floor-based solo surrounded by the other dancers standing motionless behind partially transparent glass. The effect of this scene is beautiful and, simultaneously, devastatingly lonely and ghostly.
Although only 45 minutes long, it’s impossible not to be captivated by the strange motion of the dancers and ethereal sounds of the musicians. I Hit the Ground Running is a unique, artistic interpretation of the many emotions and opinions that were uncovered and portrayed in the making of the show. The message left resonating in the air is that leveraging a position in the economy is a gruelling and unforgiving task. Luckily, we as humans have the tendency to never give up.
I Hit the Ground Running runs at the Baxter Flipside Theatre 29 August – 7 September 2013.