Every so often one lands up at the theatre and is presented with a piece that will stay with one forever, and sometimes “forever” is long after the title and the performer’s names have left one’s head.
Full Moon is one such piece. Gregory Maqoma is a legendary dancer and choreographer in the South African contemporary dance scene. His latest work marking 15 years of the Vuyani Dance Theatre and the launch of the new company is now playing at the Mandela Theatre, Joburg Theatre Complex.
Maqoma put a dream team in place for this. He choreographed the work together with Luyanda Sidiya (Artistic Director). Lulu Mlangeni, a senior dancer with the company, was the rehearsal director. A new orchestral work was composed by Isaac Molelekoa and orchestrated by Keith Moss for the work, with the South African National Youth Orchestra playing it under the baton of Matheu Kieswetter. Sound design was by Friedrich Wilsenach. Audiovisual design was by Jurgen Meekel. The set and lighting design was by Declan Randall. Randall doesn’t work much in South Africa anymore, but he is undoubtedly one of the world’s top lighting designers. The set was magnificent, with impressive swans flying in the first act and a raked stage in the second act. Costumes were by Black Coffee, impressive things, first in white for the first act and then black and then red for the second act. Makeup and hair were by House of Queen.
When I write a dance review I generally focus on the dance and then show how the technical aspects support the theme of the dance and enhance (or detract from) it. I have taken the liberty of doing this differently for this review, not because the technical aspects outshine the dance itself, but because in this particular work the total theatrical experience is integral to the performance itself.
The technical aspects of the dance itself are present, of course, but it is the artistry of each dancer and the theatre magic created by the team which set this work in a class of its own. The two guest artists, Thoriso Magongwa, an internationally renowned classical ballet dancer, and Gregory Alcan, a former world gymnastics champion, made impressive displays of superior technique, showing their years of dedication to their art forms. However, it was the total attention to the consideration given to the meaning of the entire piece which transcended the physical and touched the emotions of the audience.
Now for the dancers of the Vuyani Dance Company. They are, in the order listed in the programme, Keaolebogo Seodigeng, Julia Burnham, Otto Andile Nhlapo, Roseline Keppler, Phumlani Mndebele, Xolisile Bongwana, Phumlani Nyanga and apprentice dancers, Alfonzo Freemantle, Alfred Motlhapi, Edwin Ramoba, George Hlongwane, Gift Nkosi, Kalima Mipata, Megan Goliath, Motsau Motsau, Nomasonto Radebe, Peter Lenso, Sibusiso Dlamini and Tsholofelo Sefako.
This is not a narrative piece. Interpretation is left to the individual. It was in this sphere that Maqoma’s versatility in using his guest artists as well as his company, together with his technical team, came into its own bright, shining glory. The dance was never about the technique, it was always about meaning behind the dance and that was left to the individual viewer.
Full Moon is one of those pieces of which one will not grow tired. One can, and probably should, see it several times during this run, but it will also be a piece which can be perennially resurrected. It is going to go on to be a classic in the contemporary dance repertoire. It deserves a nation-wide, and an international, tour.
All in all this is the work of a mature choreographer with a superb dance and technical team. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of art, but Full Moon comes close to being a work where the praise is so fulsome that it leaves no room for negative criticism to be found. Full Moon sets a new bar in the South African world of dance, both contemporary and classical. It can be seen at Joburg Theatre until 11 May 2014. This is highly recommended.