by Victoria Graaf-Raw
The 18th Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, started not with a bang but with a flash.
After a brief cognitive reawakening that happens religiously as Lliane Loots — artistic director of Jomba!, delivers her powerful and politically stirring welcome speech, the auditorium lights dim on the marginally full Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and a hush falls.
However, instead of the ever-typical stage lights to fade up, we were greeted with a bright, assaulting and ever-changing fluorescent white light that fills the space. Now seen to us the brightly lit space is a mirrored floor, inhabited by two fast-paced, quick-spoken and energetic dancers who made their grand entrance centre stage from the back curtain.
The dancers, Ioannis Mandafounis and Fabrice Mazliah from Swiss-based company Mamaza, begin to move in a manner that combines their bodies, voices and most importantly the floor in the mesmerizing EIFO EFI.
It becomes apparent that the two men are speaking over and rather not to one another at one another, their voices become the score to their performance rather than music played through the speakers. The duo echo one another’s words, each of their stories is nonsensical and non-chronological. From the moment the dancers appear the text flows with the movements.
Word and action syncopate perfectly with the variant lighting changes, as the audience watch their collaboration and the join in the magic as they catch a phrase of the text or action that is relatable to them. The duos physicality is fast and precise, they engage brief moments of contact which break the isolation of their narratives.
This is comically joined with their ability to create movements, text, as well as frozen silhouettes, which resemble and comment on fragments of the lived everyday human experience movement as well as the ending — in stillness and silence.
The second work of the night is performed by a non-traditional dance company in a non-traditional theatre space — the parking lot and entrance of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
Dazed audience members were ushered by the French company, Ex Nihilo, carrying portable radios to the appropriate place to stand and watch Calle Obrapia #4.
By doing so, the audience become part of the piece. As the five dancers switch between local radio stations and walk around the space, they begin to negotiate the space between the audience and the space for performance, it becomes clear that there is a very fine line between the two. The distinction between dancers and the performer is merely that one is stationary and the other is not.
As the performance piece begins to build, the dancers toy with the space using their bodies to make contact with the space (the walls, pillars, road) and other dancers.
They engage in these spaces with what appeared to be a contact improvisational approach, allowing the music from their radios to control the course or direction of the bodies.
This choreography had striking elements of militaristic capoeira and parkour dance styles as well as the small duo or trio sections of the work mirroring ballroom and physical theatre styles.
The 18th Jomba! opening night may be remembered by some as a night of non-convention but to the boundary-pushers an opening night which subverts the norm.