Review: Greg Maqoma, reviewed by Francis Angol
Vuyani Dance Theatre
“Beautiful Me - Part Of” and “Beautiful”
Lilian Baylis Theatre
Saturday 4th March 2006
The artist - a landscape of ever shifting metaphors!
As part of the season of special projects by Sadler’s Wells, Gregory Maqoma, a South African based artist who has been described as one of the most talented choreographers to emerge from the new generation of South African artists, presented an evening of dance at the Lilian Baylis Theatre.
The programme was co-produced by Centre National de la Dance (France) and Vuyani Dance Theatre (South Africa) with the support of AFAA - Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres and A.K.C.T Ltd, the charitable arm of the Akram Khan Company.
The two works; “Beautiful Me - Part Of” and “Beautiful”, are part of the trilogy which looks at the beauty of human beings as juxtaposed with the beauty of things and the seasons that contribute to the wholesomeness of the universe’says Greg in Arts Alive.
As the audience entered the Baylis theatre to take their seats, they where presented with a stage void of wings encapsulating a set that one can only describe as somewhat surreal in nature and beautiful in sculpture.
A visionary landscape of two organic bodies, one female the other male set within a rectangular space outlined by a perimeter, a path constructed so as to represent a daisy field - green grass with beautiful different coloured daisies sparsely positioned around the route. The costumes were simple in design, pastel green fabric tailored to the body worked well in portraying a simplistic organic view of beauty. The lighting was soft and plain in design but effective in creating a feeling of harmonised intimacy between the body and its environment
The 75 minute programme presented an interesting view of the use of African dance within a theatrical presentation. Approached from a very contemporary perspective, the style of expression and choreographic structure gave an insight into Maqoma’s influences and training. Contemporary dance expression laced with an African resonance that gave the work an engaging edge.
Sharp shoulder expressions with bounded and extended lower body movements created a mesmerising display of a movement signature that is inevitably Maqoma’s trademark. The use of repetition reinforced statements of expression, injecting a dynamics that played on movement metaphors. At times sweeping contemporary dance motifs and gestures set against a backdrop of cultural expressions made it difficult to position the style of expression into one defined category. The female dancer moved with poise and elegance, shifting and flowing from one dynamic gesture to the next, creating a sentiment of harmony with every executable step.
Maqoma’s tall prominent stature animated the landscape with a griot like presence, exhibiting the skill and confidence of one well versed in their art. The movement vocabulary was rooted in placement and angular in outline. Free flowing sharp precise motifs and transitions exhibited an interesting meeting of forms. A style and structure that can be described as circular intensions interconnected through parallel planes within a defined arena of expressions.
A most satisfactory evening of solo and duet work that allowed the voice of contemporary Africa to be made visible. Through this presentation one can only hope that, this kind of work and collaboration will help to influence the development of similar artists working in comparable genres and by doing so educate individuals and further enhance the diverse richness of British dance.