Dance, Making It Visual

We were the mud princesses, ballerinas and every little girls dream.

The White Light Festival in Cape Town 2017

The annual White Light Festival was a spontaneous evening filled with artistic performance acts, sculptures and other art forms from around Cape Town. The dazzling light festival celebrates art and wine in December once a year. Jay Pather, a South African choreographer and director of Siwla Sonke Dance Theatre together with choreographer, movement director and creator of musical theatre, Fiona du Plooy, put this extraordinary event together.

Every year the White Light Festival brings families together to celebrate a time with food and wine at the SPIER WINE FARM. One of Cape Town’s most famous and beautiful wine farms in Stellenbosch. The wine farm is known for its soothing red wines, as well as its beautiful hotel and spa. Not to mention the lovely road trip amongst the vineyards and countryside. During the festival the farm is lit up, shining brightly with gaudy lights from the performance acts, fires and lanterns in the forrest and amongst the flowers. This truly is a wonderful time for families and couples to celebrate the festive season accompanied by live music, many performance acts.

As one of the proofers my fellow dancing friends and I were the ballerinas of the night. Covered in clay, clothed in beautiful white dresses and fairy lights, we were dancing amongst the trees, in between acts and around the audience.

The ballet dancers were thrilled to be apart of such an eventful evening. Besides our usual stage and dressing rooms, we made the most of the outdoors. From being staged in professional theatres, with neat make up, pink tights and  pointe shoes to the forrest, hard rocky found, clay and ballet pumps, we are the post modern version of Les Willies.  No matter the site, costuming or music, dance has evolved so much. From training in the studios to dancing amongst the trees, dancing is a beautiful form of art to being light and shine light to a festival full of lights.

Whether we are dancing to the wind or the DJ, dance is movement in any way, with anything, on anything to anything.

Covered with clay from head to toe, brushing our ballet pumps in dirt, gracefully and elegantly performing allegro on grass. This was an awesome experiance. Talk about ones comfort zone. Who said Ballerinas can’t get a little dirty? Not to mention, our costuming was also decorated with live Christmas beetles, they seemed to be attracted to our lights, along with other species of bugs. Every act was unique, amazing and creative in their own way.

It was an honour to be apart of this festival. Truly is worth your time and you don’t want to miss out next year. Every year is different and exciting, so be sure to book your tickets next year. 

For more information visit Spier Wine Farm 

 

 

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Dance, Making It Visual

UCT Student vs UCT Dancer

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Dancer: Anderson Carvalho

Did you know that UCT has a Dance School? 

You have probably heard of students studying dance at the University of Cape Town (UCT) or perhaps you might have met a student. Dance has evolved so much and personally as a UCT School of Dance student, it’s time to have a little more insight about what the dancers really do or should I say study.

All of a sudden dance is always about doing the splits and turning multiple times, performing the unnatural human things everyday, like shaping themselves into distorted positions, jumping extremely high and stretching beyond the natural limits. Let me inform you that these ideologies around what dance is all about and what becoming a dancer requires needs to be clarified. Firstly the UCT School of Dance is not a platform where dancers stretch everyday, take a couple physical dance classes and leave. It is a space where the dance students equip themselves to either become a dance performer, teacher or researcher. Before I provide you in detail with what these three streams offer the main question is, what is the meaning of studying dance to you? Your knowledge about dance is only about the two factors that dance is physically demanding and mentally draining, however UCT is an academic institution and being part of the University, the School of Dance too is very academic.

When you meet a dancer, don’t just ask about how sore this/her feet are? It’s not just about physicality and training to do vast back bends and split jumps. Dance is political, in all aspects. Ask about the upcoming performances. Many choreographers that make works today use their art as a mechanism to educate, embodying political issues ranging from racism, sexism, femininity, culture identity, ones personal struggles, violence, everyday life experiences and more.

Yes dance is extremely strenuous, the ability and demands are high, not to mention our competition, don’t even go there…Balancing strength and flexibility is a physical journey for every dancer, gymnast, sportsman or any physical career for that matter. The body is a temple and as a dancer the journey is about finding their limits, working with their weaknesses and developing an identity as an artist, for myself as a white South African female. Identity is huge and again in dance it’s a journey of self -discovery. Basically what a students university is all about, not just about the studies, but about finding yourself.

What is like being a South African dance student at the University of Cape Town? And what does it even mean to study dance?

The theory consists of many courses:

African Dance History:  which deals with the history of Africa and how the history has affected South African dance today.

Western Dance History: The history of the West, the pioneers in American and German Modern Dance.

Choreography: Choreographers dance works that made history compared to the choreographers of today. Writing reviews on their works, understanding the techniques and choreographic devices of choreographing as well as site specific dance works.

Performance Studies: graphic design, lighting, business studies, sound and stage production.

Musicology: History and evolution of music in the West and in Africa. This includes notation and instrumentation.

Anatomy: anatomical structure of the body.

Dance Teachers Method: child development, the cognitive and physical development of a child, which is very important when teaching a child dancing (their bodies are so pliable). Learning the codified dance technique as well as teaching creative dance, which deals with the multiple intelligences of Gardeners Theory.

Next time you approach a dance student, ask when their next show is, ask about the gender discourses, homosexuality. It’s post modernism, not the baroque period people, please expand your knowledge. We are students just like a normal acedemic student just with dance in front of it…

Visit the University of Cape Town School of Dance website for more information.

Dance, Making It Visual

MEGHAN TRAINOR Responds to South African Dancer RUDI SMIT’s YOUTUBE Video to “ME TOO”

 

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Meghan Trainor Responds to Rudi Smits video (Photo: GREATSTOCK/SPLASH/YOUTUBE/@RUDI SMIT)

RUDI SMIT, a Cape Town based dancer and choreographer uploaded a dance video to YouTube on the 6th of September 2016 of MEGHAN TRAINORS hit single ME TOO’. Just after 24 hours Meghan responded to the video via twitter.

23 year old, Rudi Smit who has been choreographing since he was 12, caught the attention of the US pop celebrity singer-songwriter MEGHAN TRAINOR.

He uploaded a video to YouTube of his crew known as “UNTIMITIVE” dancing in Milnerton, in Plumstead to renowned celebrity MEGHAN TRAINORS hit single “ME TOO.” He did not think that his video would become a sensation overnight. The video went viral in less than 24 hours reaching over 26 000 views. When the video eventually reached an estimate of 260 000 views Meghan Trainor tweeted her response.

“WOW WOW WOW UNBELIEVEABLE” she said.

 Could she of said wow one more time? An emphatic semantic triplet. This figure of expression reveals how speechless she was. The literate meaning of repeating herself suggests that she was more than flabbergasted. This shows that not was it only beyond her belief to see South African dancers perform and put together a dance music video. It just shows that the dance industry in South Africa has been recognized. Trainor’s tweet has opened many doors for the South African dancers to continue exploring and performing. It was about time that the world knew about what the South African dancers have to offer.

Furthermore, Rudi responded exactly 50 minutes later via twitter.

He was in awe of the fact that she tweeted the video. Anyone would be if a celebrity’s official account responded to you. He showed support by stating he “LOVES” in capital letters her music, which to a large extent shows great appreciation towards Meghan as an artist. In future he will probably be choreographing more dance works to her music…

Due to Rudi being well-known in the dance industry this viral thread that was choreographed and co-directed by Rudi himself, was the opened door to an extremely successful career. The fact Megan responded to his tweet, shows that not has it only given Rudi worldwide recognition, but it has revealed the South African talent.

Consequently social media is a very powerful tool when it comes to promotional work and marketing. Being able to market oneself as an artist by posting a video, which can go viral in 24 hours, is insane. The thought of making heaps amount of money and becoming a sensation in 24 years shows how incredibly influential the media is. The vastness of a celebrity contacting someone over a form of social media is unbelievable. One response can either build someone’s reputation or break it down. Rudi is now famous, because of Meghan, he will forever be remembered for his excellent dance works, especially since Meghan tweeted him back, it is scarcely credible, but overall a great response.

Dance, Making It Visual

Site-Specific Performances vs Concert Theatre Performances.

Now you are probably thinking to yourself that this is self explanatory, just a bunch of people or one person dancing randomly in a public space. Well you are spot on. That is exactly what it is, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Yes, it does relate to what you might know as flash mobs and street dancing. Interestingly so, it is a lot more complex than that.

Let me guide you through it slowly. It will be easy to understand site-specific dance works if have you seen the dance movie Stomp the Yard or Honey. If not perhaps you are a fan of the Step Up movies, where the best dancers of all time unexpectedly perform in many different sites. From art museums, shopping malls, and restaurants, to sandy beaches, pavements and crowded car parks.

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(Photo credit: Summit Entertainment) Step Up Revolution dancers performing on the streets.

This idea of performing in any site is not classified as a site-specific dance work. I know, mind-boggling isn’t it? A site-specific dance work mostly relates to the choreographic approach to the site, meaning the dancers’ experience and engagement with the specific site. So, the complexity lies within the approach, how a dancer engages with the space and that it not just about performing outside of a studio.

So, what is site-specific dance work?

Site-specific dance works were experiments of the 1960s Avant guard movement. They were explored by post modernist choreographers such as Trisha Brown, whose choreographic approach was refusing to choreograph in a studio. She rebelled against all limitations, restrictions and boundaries imposed by a traditional auditorium. In an auditorium the dancers perform on a traditional stage, enter and disappear into wings and dance under the limelight to Beethoven’s classics or Beyonce’s latest hits.

The whole idea is for the dancer to not be objectified by the audience; to purposefully serve as an object of entertainment seen from one angle. To break the convention where the audience watches and the performer performs. Initially Trisha Brown wanted the audience to engage with the performer in many different ways and to view the dance from many angles.

As an audience member, you have a certain way of engaging with the dancer. You’re either entertained, challenged or bored out of your socks. Additionally, the relationship with the performer becomes a conversation, so you either decide to respond or completely ignore the performer. If you have not seen a traditional concert theatre dance take a trip to the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town and watch Cape Town City Ballet perform the good old Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker or Swan Lake. If not ballet maybe a Contemporary African dance show or Contemporary dance work at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch. The only way to really grasp the difference between a concert dance and site-specific dance is to physically be in the theatre and experience it.

Site works are choreographed in the site itself, meaning the choreographer does not create the dance in a studio and then perform it in the site, which is exactly what the Step Up movies and flash mobs do. The choreographer in a site would engage and respond to his/her surroundings. The dancer channels what the environment offers at the specific time that the choreographer enters the space. The idea is that he/she plays with their senses; what the dancer sees, smells, touches and hears. By applying these elements, the choreographer automatically behaves in a certain way, evoking an emotion and responding to the space.

Another great description is by The California Institution of Arts, which describes site-specific work as a response to space:

Site-specific dance/performance is work created in response to a particular place or site, inspired by its architecture or design, its history, and/or its current use”. 

Due to the crazy post-modernist world we live in today, site-specific dance work may not be as ‘dancy’ as you want it to be. High legs, split jumps, backflips, 100 turns… These may be present, but it is more about the site than the dancer’s flexible legs.

So, if you haven’t seen a site-specific dance work, having expectations is going to ruin your first experience. The footage of site dances might be very confusing if you are not physically in the space when it is being performed. Watching a video of it online might just be one of those strange, supposedly hilarious Facebook videos you come across. Something you would watch during your peak procrastination time. I mean you’ll find it interesting for a second, completely puzzling half way through, then lean towards “What the hell am I watching?” Well, since it caught your attention you either love wasting time watching the dance video or admire the fact it makes absolutely no sense to you whatsoever.

Alan Parker, a professional choreographer who has had many site-specific experience more so choreographed site-specific works will provide insight about the difference between the two.

He is a very well known figure in the South African dance industry who has experience in many different fields of dance. Ranging from experience as a dance researcher, performer, contemporary dance teacher, South African choreographer, lecturer at the Rhodes University Drama Department and a part time lecturer at the UCT School of Dance.

Alan also trained in creative movement, contemporary dance, physical theatre, contact improvisation and Ashtanga yoga. He also specialized in physical theatre, choreography and mastered in Drama at Rhodes University.

Since 2007, he has performed, choreographed and taught for the Grahamstown’s First Physical Theatre Company, but has also choreographed various works for the company and for all of the major national Arts Festivals.

Not only is he acknowledged as the Assistant Artistic Director, but appeared in many First Physical productions. Alan is currently lecturing undergraduates and postgraduates in contemporary dance, physical theatre and choreography.

An interview with Alan Parker on the 30 May will provide insight about site specific dance works and all what there is to know about choreographing in a site.

For more insight about Site Specific dance works, three 3rd year UCT School of dance students will explain in detail, their first site-specific dance experience.

Dance, Making It Visual

UCT School of Dance on FIRE!!!

IS THIS SOME SORT OF ‘AFRIKA BURN’ PRANK OR WHAT? 

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Smoke creeping up the wall (the recycle bins are removed).
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Part of the roof that was destroyed. (Unfortunately due to safety reasons, no images were captured inside the building).

The University of Cape Town School of Dance admin building caught a flame during the early hours of yesterday morning. Around 12-1am the fire was spotted by a campus security guard who immediately notified the fire brigade. As of today the police are still investigating the cause.

The Dean of the Dance School, Gerard Samuel, arrived immediately at the site around 2am after being notified by the campus security. Samuel instantly informed the staff members of the Collage of Music (the dance schools neighbour), Upper Campus Humanities head office and the UCT School of Dance staff members.

Soon after, in the afternoon a meeting in the canteen was held at the school of dance, hosted at 1pm by Samuel in collaboration with the dance schools SRC members (Bronwyn Probert, Talia Lewis and Carla Shultz) to notify the dance students about the incident and clarify what actually happened.

During the meeting the students including the Dean himself were quite emotional…His speech was moving, whilst speaking he stopped and took a deep breath, swallowing his tears from a flashback similar to the incident. This was enough to touch every member in the canteen. The students were fearful are concerned about their safety at the dance school, some were even crying, others just suffering silently. The majority of the students were angry and frustrated about the whole incident, hoping to just scrape through this and carry on with classes. Unfortunately the severity of the event needs a lot more attention than just a meeting.

After this emotional meeting and the affect it had on the staff, more so the students, some teachers cancelled their classes, because no one was in the right headspace to continue the day.

Evidently from an investigation, the fire started from the outside of the admin building, supposedly originating from the plastic recycled bins. The flames from the plastic bags crawled up the wall of the admin building, spreading fast across the security office roof, and damaging the wood. Being the old-fashioned building that it is, it burnt pretty quickly. Thankfully no bodies were hurt or harmed.

This horrific event affected more so disturbed many students and the staff members of the School of Dance. Some conjured up past memories of trauma, loss and for myself emotions of the past protests that took place last year on campus. Seeing such a beautiful university imbued with history slowly be destroyed is depressing. Thankfully the dance schools dearest neighbour, the Collage of Music have opened up their building for Gerard Samuel and the secretary to settle until the matter is resolved, and the building is repaired. With the support of Humanities and the insurance claim, I am sure the incident will be well taken care of.

After the emotional meeting, this school (which most of the dance students refer to as their second home) filled with young ambitious dancers where their passion is being nurtured to become a profession seemed to be slowly fading away with the building itself…

Worst of all the idea of not knowing who caused the fire is agonizing… As a third year dance student privileged to be part of an 80-year-old dance school, which in 1934 was originally known as the University School of Ballet, slowly turn to ash kind of like a valley of ashes.  Thankfully the building does not stop the dance spirit to keep dancing, working hard and supporting one another in love.

Furthermore this seems like a form of protest action. Why would someone single out the dance school? I’m aware that burning art in this manner is for Afrika Burn. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this something is very fishy…

Before this terrible event, there are suspicions that the dance school is some sort of target… About a week ago Maxwell Xolawe Rani’s (the African Dance Teacher and African course convenour) car was stolen during the day. Some say it was an inside job. It was out of the blue that the car was stolen. The car slowly and casually drove off from the School of Dance parking bay, right under our very noses. Two days later it was found in Grassy Park…How hectic? His car was returned in the same state it was stolen. What scares me is we supposedly just go back and dance in peace?

Before we assume, as Vice Chair on the SRC in the University School of Dance, the meeting being discussed tomorrow hopefully will come up with better safety solutions.

Dance, Making It Visual, Uncategorized

Dance is POLITICAL

“Dance needs bodies and every body has a political history” – Talia Lewis

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Dancer: Nuske George    Photography: Nardus Engelbrecht

What do I mean by political?

We understand that politics relates to the public affairs or government of a country. Politics in this post is seen as an act of power. The questions revolved around this power is who defines what is politically correct? Who controls what is ethically and aesthetically correct? In this case, in DANCE.

Dance is extremely complex to define, because it is constantly evolving like a culture. What is meant by this is that culture is a manmade construction, it is not one group of people, but a fusion of many ethnicities and communities. This defines dance today, it is a fusion of dance styles, a community of people from different ethnicities and training backgrounds. In addition to the dance training, the performance world and dance criticism within South Africa, one of the main reasons for the complexity is due to the influence of politics, culture, colonialism and migration. These aspects have hugely impacted the dance world in South Africa more so the perception of South Africa today.

By unpacking the issues within dance such as the body stigmas, which looks at the ideal body of a dancer, the gender discourses and more importantly race. These cultural markers effect how the audience (you) view dance works, which formally creates a perspective of what is ethical and aesthetically pleasing on stage.

By briefly looking into the history of dance in South Africa, Classical Ballet was dominant and seen as a ‘high art’ (a form of art that originates from the West that is strictly for ‘white’ bodies). It was the main form of dance. This is where colonialism took place. The influence of the West, their norms, traditions, dance forms and authenticity has opened many opportunities for South Africa, however created many disadvantages. The confusion in dance lies between the fusion of many dance styles, because politically with colonialism there is this constant search for the truth…What is authentically African? An identity crisis, which still prevails today, especially when it deals with African Dance…

Many dance companies, dance researches and choreographers strive for equality and beg to understand the reason for the restrictions, constraints and boundaries set politically in the dance world in South Africa. Politically this dates back to the Apartheid era and due to historical events as such, dance in South Africa continuously faces political and aesthetical challenges for example why is a white body on a professional stage performing a traditional African dance seen as politically incorrect?

Identity is a huge issue; we all face an identity crisis due to how society shapes our mind and how the media portrays perfection. As a South African audience member and performer we need to rid this notion of what dance is and what it should look like, the history in art has already broken traditions, overstepped boundaries and created a space for us to explore, experiment and express today. One must learn from the past and cease to live in it. Learn to tolerate, adapt and respect the evolving world we live in today.

In South Africa the fact that we are a multicultural audience the question an audience member (you) should ask is who is performing? Where is the performance performed? And what is being performed? For example the dancing that took place during the Apartheid era. The laws of apartheid, the Group Areas Act affected the performance space for dancers. The ‘Blacks’, Indians and Coloureds were not allowed to perform on professional platforms such as Artscape and the Baxter Theatre. They were forbidden due to their race, because white bodies were more privileged…How racist !

Consequently dance is not just a form of entertainment. The body is seen as a political tool, which is used as a powerful mechanism to educate, to change the perception and future of South Africa.

Click here to read about dance being political – It blew my mind !