“Xeno” on the Jomba! Fringe choreographed by Tshediso Kabulu and Thapelo Kotololo

Fluctuating Stories

by Victoria Graaf-Raw

“People are fighting for their identity”, says Kwanele Finch Thusi, choreographer and dancer of his solo work, Sounds of Men, performed at the 2016 Jomba! Fringe.

This year’s Fringe programme was filled with works that explored the introspective experiences of dancers and their stories through dance.

The Fringe is a platform for new up-and-coming dancers to showcase their work. This year the festival had over sixty applications nationwide; nine works were selected (unfortunately one was cancelled).

The works selected are from a range of different styles and genres as well as skill level. The dancers are not required to have any formal training behind them, which makes this part of the festival so unique.

Although typically there is no one theme selected for the programme, I saw from the works that this year’s programme common thread was self-discovery, self-reflection and finding ones voice in society.

Many, if not all of the works were somehow related to these themes. The works that stood out the most for me conceptually as well as technically were Beautiful Ones by Kristi-Leigh Gresse, Xeno by Tshediso Kabulu and Thapelo Kotololo and the screen-dance work: Her Ass Meant by Julia Wilson and Lorin Sokool.

Her Ass Meant is a clever title that plays on the word harassment and focuses on issues of sexual harassment that most women face daily.

The performance was playful and fluid, the dancers created the work around various personal experiences of harassment and included other women’s experiences shared via social media when the dancer/choreographers were researching the piece. Using facial expressions, repeated gestures, text and mannerisms this performance could become somewhat of an awakening project on how men treat women in society.

Another performance piece, which explores issues around how human beings treat one another is Xeno. A collaboration between Tshedio Kabulu and Thapelo Kotololo, two graceful and beautiful dancers to behold.

Setting the ambiance before the dancers took the stage were musicians Lihle Mbokazi (vocals) and Thokozani Nsibande (percussion). The two dancers walk onto a soft blue-lit stage, towards Mbokazi who is centre stage, commanding audience attention with her resonance and stage presence.

This performance negotiates issues around the body and human cruelty in a way that is not acutely violent but plays with separation of the dancers and performers, the stage space as well as physical interactions between Kabulu and Kotololo.

The dancers never become physically aggressive with one another but their actions suggest intimidation and an attempt to fit in or together as they mirror one another.

Both Kabulu and Kotololo execute the work with such precision and detail, one doubts they ever falter in their contemporary training and technique. Their movements are linear and broken up into sections by spoken word by Mbokazi accompanied by the rhythmic pulse of Nsibande’s drum.

This wonderful night filled of opportunity and passion driven dancers will not be seen again, as it was a one night only show.

Another one nighter is the new addition to the Jomba! Programme, KZN On The Edge that gives choreographers and companies who performed at the previous year’s Jomba! Fringe or another platform to grow their work with technical designers, mentors and performance grants. Catch these fresh works tonight at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.