Exuberant modern dancing
by Diane de Beer
Production: Embody You
Disclosure: As a theatre writer, I thought it was time to try my hand at dance writing, not so much a review as an opinion or perhaps more specifically a story on how (via the experience of theatre) I engage with dance. – DdB
My whole life, dance has been one of the art forms that I fit into my schedule whenever there’s something I want to see. I’m a huge Tina Bauch fan for example and saw one of her last performances in London. My heart almost stopped.
Locally my favourite contemporary couple was Laetitia Müller (before she joined the classical company) and Christopher Kindo, both Gauteng dancers.
Ever since I saw Figure of 8 Dance (I was late to the party because of living in a different province) especially Karatara, a lament to the tragedy of the Knysna fires (also at the festival if you haven’t seen it yet, it tears at your heart), I try not to miss their performances.
With Grant van Ster and Shaun Oelf as directors, dreamers and dancers, the company is adventurous, eclectic and always dances with emotional energy which is my draw card.
Embody You is an exploration of the body’s role and function through contemporary dance. “Movements, emotions and thoughts are explored, but also our yearning for meaning as we wrestle with concepts of identity, age, beauty, enjoyment, love, pain and heartache”, the announcement to the show states. So you are given guidelines. And from then on, as they move onto the stage, you’re on your own.
But the dancers and their bodies are speaking to you, sometimes in voice, breathing or simply noises and most of the time with their bodies – expressively.
They move through the entire range in the 50 minute programme, with all kinds of limbs and body parts scattered around (plastic ones luckily), to remind us and the dancers of the importance of their own bodies – and their chosen art form.
Play is probably the most important driver of this particular piece and even when that becomes more serious, it remains play. It’s not always playful, though, and when the two female dancers engage, it is almost as if they’re battling each other’s bodies. The men seem more physically engaged with strength providing a competitive edge, when dancing together.
Then they flip flop between scenes in a school yard, followed by climbing into their heads rather than using just the bodies.
And gender comes in to play when the male dancers are suddenly confronted by one of their female counterparts. When she enters the fray, there’s an immediate flirtation and yet, it also switches to the protective feelings of family.
Finally: What struck me most powerfully was the joy of expression. Just sit back, latch onto their emotions, they’re all out there and the invitation is clear. You don’t have to find meaning, if you simply want to wallow in their energy, exuberance and sometimes even elation, that is also part of the experience.
It’s like looking at a painting and the challenge of experiencing contemporary dance, is to find your own story and then to go with your own heart.