BOK is a uniquely South African re-imagining of Vaslav Nijinsky’s iconic ballet l’Apres-midi d’un Faune (The Afternoon of a Faun). This ballet, which generated much controversy at its début in 1912 because of its erotic innuendos, is a major landmark in dance history. It raised debate around issues of freedom of expression and what should and should not be allowed to be depicted on stage. Aesthetically the work marked a major departure point from classical ballet, and as a result made an important contribution to the conversation about what is and should be considered dance. As South Africa looks back at 20 years of democracy, remembering history and historical landmarks, it seems fitting to draw from the ‘queer’ thread that is woven into Nijinsky’s work as a way to address issues around sexuality, freedom of speech and human rights. Underneath the beauty of the surreal fantasy that is BOK, we see a distorted reflection of contemporary South Africa.
Choreographed by Kristina Johnstone, Cilna Katzke and Steven van Wyk
In Eyes Closed with Piñata, the third instalment of the Eyes Closed series, the destructive game of beating a piñata is contrasted by the quiet aesthetic of the art gallery. Fragile papier mâché piñatas float in the air: an expectation of violence. The audience infiltrates this vulnerable space in which ordinary, blindfolded people are monumentalised atop pedestals. Living, breathing sculptures: blind yet armed, close enough to touch, and just about to hit.
Mode finds humour and aesthetic inspiration in the formal elements of social dances – from the processional rigidity of court dances, to the frivolity of the salsa. Mode is a dance about dancing, a half-forgotten recollection of dancing in church halls and ballrooms. Rhythms of first waltzes intertwine with ballet lessons, hip-hop classes and aerobics routines: ghost memories clouding over one another. An imaginary folk-dance for a people who never existed, Mode is an echo of memories both futuristic and nostalgic, a postcard from a fictional place.
Mode was first commissioned in 2014 by the Baxter Dance Festival. In 2015 it was paired with Cipher to form the double-bill LoveZero which was created for the National Arts Festival’s 2015 Arena programme.
With a classical movement vocabulary as its starting point, room explores the spaces between bodies and the room that defines their interaction. As an ‘algorithm’, room functions through a fixed list of well-defined instructions and expects definitive actions. Unlike the cold delineated space that this movement study inhabits, the warm bodies that actualise it question the nature of absolute conclusions. room was part of the production PLASTIC which was awarded a 2013 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival.
Choreographed by Kristina Johnstone
Directed by Daniel Morcos
Once a luxurious tapestry, now a threadbare heirloom, this cherished portrait has often been restored. Weather-beaten and refurbished, treasured then forgotten, Skoonveld is this tapestry – a living still-life, a Voortrekker idyll, a pastoral landscape that paints and repaints the past. Skoonveld was part of the production PLASTIC which was awarded a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival 2013. In addition, Skoonveld received a 2013 Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award and the 2014 Kyknet Fiesta Award for Best Dance or Physical Theatre Production.
Eyes closed with chair and radio is a solo improvisation performance based on the notion of ‘listening’. Through attention to kinaesthetic awareness, spontaneous movement is discovered as a response to sensation while a live radio broadcast layers chance meaning through a coincidence of audio and visual signifiers. Eyes closed with chair and radio was part of the production Keepsake Minus 3, produced by Underground Dance Theatre and Nicola Elliott. The Production was awarded a 2012 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival and received the Kyknet Fiesta Award for Best Dance Production in 2013.
Keepsake, in its theme and simplicity of style, is inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem entitled “This is just to say”. Rachmaninov’s rich turbulent music inspires its understated emotional depth. Keepsake was part of the production Keepsake Minus 3, produced by Underground Dance Theatre and Nicola Elliott. The Production was awarded a 2012 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival and received the Kyknet Fiesta Award for Best Dance Production in 2013.
Choreographed and performed by Kristina Johnstone, Cilna Katzke and Steven van Wyk
You were meant for me marries contemporary dance and dance theatre to explore ideas of human connection and disconnection. The work uses its heightened theatricality and humour to suggest the trappings, illusions and contradictions of modern media and human interaction. You were meant for me was part of the production Keepsake Minus 3, produced by Underground Dance Theatre and Nicola Elliott. The Production was awarded a 2012 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival and received the Kyknet Fiesta Award for Best Dance Production in 2013.
In Alter, choreographer Ilona Frege and dancers of Underground Dance Theatre revisit Gregory Maqoma’s Beautiful Me by embarking on a process of unpacking the construction of their identities – as African? As South African? As performing South African identity? Moving bodies perform. Identities shift and re-form. History is remixed. The body is altered. Identity is lost and found. Alter was created for the 2012 African Theatre Association International Conference titled Querying Africa: Dis-ease, Metamorphosis and Unconventionality in African Theatre and Performance which was held at the UCT Hiddingh Campus.
Choreographed and Performed by Kristina Johnstone, Jamila Rodriguez and Steven van Wyk
Fractography: The untold story of Napoleon and Jospehine subverts the traditional love story of Napoleon Bonaparte and his lover and wife Josephine de Beauharnais, using these figures as archetypes of male-female relationships. Drawing from the many inevitable lacunas of history, we re-write Napoleon and Josephine’s ‘break-up story’ to comment on the complexities of human relationships. Fractography appropriates the ‘story’ in order to re-image and re-imagine the characters and the narrative to layer both with the complexity and nuance of contemporary concerns surrounding gender, sex, sexuality, power and desire. Recognising that every person experiences ‘fracture’, ‘rupture’ or ‘break-down’ in some form, the work Fractography becomes a place of confrontation, vulnerability and exposure. Underground Dance Theatre was awarded a Creative Arts Award by the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) for the creation of Fractography, which was performed at the Arena Theatre on the University of Cape Town’s Hiddingh Campus, at the Emerging Modernities Conference, also on the Hiddingh Campus, at the UCT School of Dance Confluences 6, and at the Baxter Dance Festival 2011.