The room is quiet, teetering on the edge of eeriness but also brimming with tranquillity. Dim lights enfold the space in intimacy. Alan Parker’s face is projected onto a screen with his eyes shut. He could be asleep. He could be praying. Or he could be dead. After all, that is the theme of this dance piece.
“Dance becomes a way to re-animate the dead,” Parker says about his production, Ghostdance for one, which is the final instalment of his ‘Archive Trilogy’.
“I wanted to disrupt the idea that an archive is only something for written work,” he adds.
Inspired by Professor Achille Mbembe and theatre practitioners such as Pina Bausch, Miss Thandi and Merce Cunningham, at its root this is a physical eulogy and tribute to Parker’s mother. “Every art form has its limitation,” he says while discussing the ways people express grief and pain over death.
It seems fitting that this performance takes place in a chapel. However, the conventional stage setup is disrupted, conforming to the National Arts Festival’s theme for this year. The seats have been moved to each side of the room, leaving a space in the centre where Parker conducts his piece.
He starts at the top of two white stairs (composed of wooden blocks), wearing a black skull mask to symbolise that he is both a skeleton and a representative of death.
The blocks are later transformed into words, and a field of strelitzias. “They were my mother’s favourite flowers, and [are] also associated with fire,” Parker explains.
Despite the technical glitches in the sound system, Parker was resilient and continued with his performance. Viewers can expect these issues to be resolved in the next shows.
Ghostdance for one is haunting in its ethereal and strange nature, and draws from the 1400s play, The Danse Macabre (Dance of Death).
The piece evokes thoughts about the cycle of life and death. You are privy to an in-between world, a state of existence that is not quite here nor there. Audiences were quiet and absorbed in this personal showcase of emotion.
Parker will be performing again from 5-8 July at 7pm at the Nun’s Chapel.
By Kayleigh Damita