1001 movements, every one exquisite

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Take one thousand and one dance moves, drawing on the best of contemporary and African dance, executed with graceful strength and relaxed precision. Add the soulful strains of a jazz sax and the syncopated rhythm of a thumb harp merging with African and Western drums. Throw in a dash of candle light and ceiling-to-stage zebra stripes and you have Siva.

Directed and choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya, Siva is performed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre. Sidiya is the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance.  Photo: CuePix/Niamh Walsh-Vorster
Directed and choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya, Siva is performed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre. Sidiya is the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance. Photo: CuePix/Niamh Walsh-Vorster

Don’t even mention the exquisite human form. The spell of Vuyani Dance Theatre’s latest offering, choreographed by this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance Luyanda Sidiya, is cast the minute the theatre doors open onto the ritualistic washing of a young woman in a zinc tub and a writhing human candlestick.

The air of excitement in this packed and diverse audience is palpable as we wait for the show to begin.

The dance starts with a man whispering. The words gain strength, turning into cracked, wailing supplications to the ancestors by a man kneeling off-centre. He cracks his sjambok, emphasizing his pain. Soon, the whip becomes a skipping rope. The show begins with speech, in isiXhosa, and is punctuated with monologues throughout. Clearly, it is a lament, dealing with disassociation and the quest for connection.

At times dancers suffer alone, but briefly, for always the community gathers around and peace is achieved. The programme gives us the choreographer’s statement on the piece, stating that it deals with man’s ultimate aloneness, the flesh that makes him hunger, and the void.

Possibly it is a lamentation on the negative impact of Western influences, but in the movement and the music Western and African traditions meld seamlessly. Towards the end, the speaker recites the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer.

The dance is achingly beautiful. Every moment caught in time is an exquisite painting. The dancers, clad in simple costumes, are also beautiful. The extraordinary vocabulary of movement is executed with graceful, understated strength. The atmosphere is evocative. And the music! The audience goes wild when the musicians are revealed.

The piece contains humour, too, and a surprise that is not to be revealed, but one that gives insight into the choreographer’s intentions. Sidiya, who is currently artistic director of the company founded by Gregory Maqoma in 1990, has taught, danced or choreographed in the UK and USA and travelled the globe to positive reviews.

Vuyani is on the cutting edge of dance and goes from strength to strength, garnering national and international awards. All in all, the standing ovation for Siva (seven) is an understatement.

Alec Mullins,
7 July,
12pm and 8pm

Anna Christensen

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