Via Kasi Movers rendered an energetic performance to commemorate Makhanda in an arrangement of poetry and is’pantsula. Like synchronised swimmers, the dancers displayed an instinctive collective connection with ease.
Considered as an informal street dance, the pantsula dance was used to demonstrate resistance. Although fitting for the piece, the quick-stepping choreography sadly overshadowed what seemed to be a promising performance of the Battle of Grahamstown.
A balance between dance and poetry could have been better arranged as the performance was somewhat lacking in context. The use of dance and poetry alone was certainly not adequate in its staging.
Parts of the performance are to be applauded though.
A poem, similar to the story of Nonqawuse and the destruction of crops and livestock was recited. It signified a dream about loss and destruction which was to come from the battle with the British. This scene evoked a deep sense of what the history of Makhanda was – resistance against the British and resistance to loss.
Apart from the red lighting which worked for some scenes however became needless four minutes later. The Zulu leopard print vest and headband worn stood out like a sore thumb in a story about the Xhosa tribe. However, not all was lost as the pantsula dancers brought lively rhythm in tune with the Gqom beats. Flat-foot movements and hand gestures blended well the tempo of the music. Moving as if their feet were on fire, the skilled dancers brought the heat for most of the performance.
If you are not well read up on the wars of dispossession, particularly the history of Grahamstown, then I suggest you grab a history book before the show.
Watch Rhythm of Makhanda at 13:00 on 7 July at Noluthando Hall and 12:00 at Glennie Hall on 8 July.
By Zondelela Njaba