THE ART OF change
A new dance piece by choreographer Portia Mashigo taps the talent of young traditional dancers. Siyabonga Sithole and photographer Leon Sadiki visited a rehearsal
The upstairs studio of Moving into Dance’s space in Newtown offers a view of the inner city. Seven young dancers are warming up with award-winning choreographer Portia Mashigo. A hawk-eye fixed on each of them, she calls out their mistakes, honing their skills.
As their rehearsal begins, they reach for their props – umbrellas. It’s fitting that they’ll be making their big stage debut at the annual Dance Umbrella, then.
They’ve never performed in a contemporary dance piece before – let alone a professional one. Their experience is as traditional street dancers within their communities in Limpopo and North West. Pantsula, Sarafina dance, and Tswana and Pedi traditional moves.
Titled More In Than Out of Time, the piece draws energetically on their street moves, adding a veneer of sophistication from Mashigo.
The work, she says, is inspired by “a new beginning, freshness, a clean canvas that is about to be moulded into something dear and unique. It is also about the coming together of generations as the young dancers begin a new journey in contemporary dance, and a sharing of talents and skills.”
In a country where contemporary dance battles to find audiences and budgets, practitioners like Mashigo have devoted their time to developing the future of the form – as a tangible, meaningful skill within communities. Her dance can bring change, a healthy lifestyle and a mode of expression.
After the rehearsal ended, we chatted to some of the dancers.
Andries Tlhasedi (25) reckons this “opportunity of a lifetime” will allow him to plough back into his community what he has been fortunate to learn. “I am now more confident as a dancer, having learnt new things over the past weeks of workshops and training.”
Penver Mathebula (25) says the training has left her body in an excellent condition, though adapting to the new methods has meant pushing herself “to the limit”.
Nobantu Bangani (31) adds: “We as dancers have to constantly challenge ourselves with new skills and information.” More In Than Out of Time is part of the Arts Alive Dance Umbrella. It will be performed at the Wits
Theatre next Sunday, August 31, at 7pm
Portia Mashigo COME RAIN OR SHINE Traditional dancers from Limpopo and Klerksdorp enter the world of contemporary dance in preparation for the Dance Umbrella