Former Jazzart and Remix Dance Theatre performers are currently showcasing a bewitching dance production, which has been selected as a piece for both the upcoming Live Art Festival and the Artscape Heritage Festival. What makes this show of particular interest is that three of the four dancers are physically disabled – a detail that in no way holds back from some explosive choreography.
Having the dancers preset on the stage while the audience takes its seats creates a rather unsettling mood early on. But this quality almost immediately changes to progress into an honest and sincere display of humanity.
The performance commences with a spoken prologue in Xhosa while another dancer speaks in sign language, this sign language becoming the inspiration for movements created by choreographer and performer Andile Vellem.
Each of the four dancers provides an alternating active and supportive dynamic to the others, with repetitive trancelike movements contributing to an increasingly intense atmosphere. The choreography progresses into vigorous movement where dancers are literally pushing and shoving each other off the chairs.
The choreography is motivated by the isolation experienced by people with disability. A strong theme of miscommunication runs throughout, as if the dancers are each blocking out certain social and physical elements. By playing with the physical restriction of a performer’s movement, Vellem creates a profound male duet.
The music evolves from dialogue via a rhythmic constant beat and a Laurie Anderson number, to sign language. During one scene the music becomes muffled, its distorted sounds forcing the audience to concentrate on their own listening abilities.
Vellem’s innovative choreography incorporates wheelchairs to form part of a duet that develops into lifts. Towards the end, the dancers dismantle the wheelchairs and build a towering structure in the centre of the stage leaving the visually powerful final image rotating and spinning.
This mesmerizing and inspiring performance proves the possibilities between able and disabled bodies to narrow the gap and form an integrated community. Unmute leaves the audience visually in awe and emotionally vulnerable.
Unmute runs at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective in Observatory untill 27 August 2014. It can also be seen during the Live Art Festival (27 August to 6 September) and as part of the Artscape Heritage Festival (18 to 30 September).