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Boyzie Cekwana
The Floating Outfit Project with “Ja’nee & Rona”

Feb 2-5, 2006

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Tuesday, February 7
    By - Paige Barnes, choreographer

    While watching the piece tears rolled down my face at a sense of cultural loss (my own) and beauty to witness dance/art without pretense, without superimposition of intellectualism, without technological over stimulus. However I felt an over stimulus of emotion (thankfully) to experiencing a contrast of my perspective as a white middle class female living in  Seattle with Boyzie Cekwana’s proposal to expose male exploitation in Southern Africa and its relationship to the HIV virus.  The evening was charged with expressive necessity and commitment to use the stage as a vehicle for cultural change. The space was impacted and I was immersed. As an American, I feel disconnected to a sense of necessity for life; my world is padded with layers of commercial production, complex bureaucratic systems, and delusive media coverage.  After viewing Cekwana’s performance I saw a source, I saw them meddle and fester in it; ruminating in their cultural environment, landscape, ritual, injustices; taking this and through an explosion of rhythm, song and dance they demanded my attention, demanded to be heard. So I listened. Thank you for the push and reminder.


    posted by sara @ 1:43 pm | Permanent link

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Friday, February 3
    Audience Member Comment:
    By Abigail Banker

    My partner, my almost 13-year old son and I all thought the pieces were compelling.  We had great conversations after the performance about dance in general, about its role in society and about the history of apartheid in South Africa.  Each of us had questions about the pieces and each of us was disturbed by some of the images (interestingly, which ones varied).  If the aim of art is to provoke interest, thought and dialogue, Mr. Cekwana and his performers were amazingly successful in our small pocket of the world:)

    posted by sara @ 7:18 pm | Permanent link

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    By Anonymous

    Both of the performances were great.  That's obvious.  But I particularly want to applaud the use of the pre-performance talk and the too-brief post-performance discussion with Boyzie Cekwana and his company.  Both provided wonderful contexts for the dance.  It's critical, I think, to provide those spaces in which a richer, more political and historical understanding of the pieces can develop.  Without them, I always worry that we risk eliciting only stereotypical responses about a depoliticized and ahistorical "African culture" (as is evident in some of the current contributions to the blog).  The discussions located the performances in a contemporary history of racialized and gendered power, performance, and resistance.  Great work.

    posted by sara @ 11:18 am | Permanent link

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    Audience Member Comment:
    By Mary

    The performances were extremely interesting and unusual especially the second piece Ja’nee. While leaving me over-heard several conversations similar to the one between my husband and me.  “Very intense…men’s anger, frustration juxtaposed to a woman’s calming efforts… ultimately surrendering "

    Thanks for the opportunity to experience something very different in dance. - Mary


    posted by sara @ 10:48 am | Permanent link

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    Audience Member Comment:
    By John Mifsud

    It had a remarkably slow start although I really like the production values of the first piece.  I was trying to be patient but had written the company off because I wasn't sure it would get any better.  Then things started to happen.  The ghostly presence of the dancers, the smoke, the music especially all started really engaging me.  The movement took off and I was enrapt.  The company held my attention.  I was thrilled to be on the edge of my seat.
    The second piece had me all along.  It started beautifully and kept developing.  I loved the boot dance.  I loved the lone woman.  I loved the music and the way the stage was set.  The company had a penetrating effect on me and encouraged self reflection and motivated me to want to deeply express myself.  They were revelatory.  An unforgettable experience.  I am not much for performance art but when I saw your brochure and I saw this company for the first time, I took a chance.  I left the theatre feeling alive and inspired.  My gamble paid off.

    posted by sara @ 10:48 am | Permanent link

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    By Ines Andrade

    The Floating Outfit Project is an outstanding performance.  It decripts the vulnerability of being, as well as its amazing strength and beauty throughout conflicts and war.  Boyzie Cekwana by the means of delightful music, body percussion, dance, voice rhythms, pictures illustrates how faith and bond with others is needed in order to survive. 
    I have never imagined South African Butoh before, but that's what the first piece untitled "Rona" dazzled me about.  As a movement performer myself, I could almost embody this silent ritual, and corporal painting that moved me so much in the opening of the piece.  A magical one stringed instrument enabled the audience to "read between the notes" and plunge into a meditative journey.  That journey was for me an entire ceremony for being, an animal ballet dedicated to ancestors, filled with transcendant symbolisms. Evolution through shape, light, plants and animal life. Elevation, wholefulness in smoking, scented clouds.
    Ja'nee was in contrast the heart being heard through voice and feet. Majestic fest of  vocal traditions, emotional turmoil, extatic praise, intimidation, competition, all this in amazing rhythms and body explosions. As Boyzie interjected after the performance "in our culture it is believed that through commitment, everything is possible". Well in Ja'nee, we can feel this statement in the artist's powerful commitment to performance. Through powerful display, praise of inheritances, glories of forefathers, tales of conquests and battles, this piece adresses amongst other themes: survival and deaths in mines, faith, love, women's voice, communauty and isolation. 
    Thank you OTB for this beautiful South African treat. Go see this masterpiece before it is out of reach!  

    posted by sara @ 10:47 am | Permanent link

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    A few thoughts on 'Boyzie Cekwana'
    By Nancy Guppy

    In a word, or four, I liked this show. I must confess that in dance performance, lots of slowness, especially off the top, tweaks my infantile 'Oh no, I'm going to be bored for nearly an hour!" fear state. I wasn't. The first piece, "Rona", was particulary riveting. The primal, rising-out-of-the-mud, progression of the three, covered in white powder, dancers, created a pre-historic, Eden'ish vibe. The unique accompanying percussion sounds and terrific lighting design added immensly to the vision. Human evolution and wonderful animal movement, especially the creature that I thought of as a combination Unicorn/rocking horse, was portrayed in a playful, and slightly eerie, way. I couldn't take my eyes off of the one female performer, Desire' Davids. Her sharp, specific movement was beautiful, fluid, and packed with committment. Kinda reminded me of one of our local jewels, Ellie Sandstrom. It was exciting when the three dancers let it rip halfway, or more, into the piece. I like action, and they certainly didn't dissapoint. The second piece, "Ja'nee" was a completely different, much more theatrical, animal. Seven black men brandished sticks and paced the stage, railing verbally, and a few times physically, at each other, (the audience? the world?). This audio cacophony morphed throughout the piece into beautiful African call & response chanting. The men undressed and dressed numerous times, and dance-wise, displayed a variety of impressive rhythmic group movements that included lots of feet slapping hard onto the stage. (This caused me to worry, briefly, about shinsplints.) Again, Desire' Davids provided an interesting counterpoint to this wild swirl as she carefully worked her way on tiptoe through the so-thick-you-could-cut-it-with-a-knife, dangerous and explosive male energy. "Ja'nee" strikes me as a personal and earnest message from Boyzie Cekwana. While I appreciate his sincere intent, this piece didn't soar like "Rona", at least to me. After the performance ended, the audience was invited onstage to view the gallery of photos hanging on a clothesline. Each picture included at least one of the male dancers holding a gun, machete or knife, often with an adorable small child in his arms, or somewhere in the frame. Those images pierced my heart. confidential to On the Boards: Perhaps it feels too pedestrian, but please! I beg you!: TELL THE AUDIENCE TO TURN OFF THEIR CELLPHONES BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE BEGINS. Thanks.

    posted by nancyguppy @ 7:36 am | Permanent link

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    Boyzie Cekwana, 2/2/06
    By Mark Waldstein

    This is the kind of event I really count on OtB to bring us from time to time: A rare opportunity to see a troupe from halfway across the globe – and, if you’re there on the right night, to meet them before or after the show and ask questions about their work.


    I have long been fascinated with African culture, though I always wish I knew more about it. I’ve seen many theatre pieces from South Africa during times that I’ve spent in London, New York and Boston; but I’ve now lived in Seattle for almost eight years and realize how few of these shows reach us here. What always impresses me about black South Africans – both before and after the fall of apartheid – is their poignant ability to mix sorrow with joy, anger with resilience, tragedy with activism, and music with all of it.


    Boyzie Cekwana, from what I’ve read, came of age artistically in the post-apartheid society; and so his creative urges are different from those which led previous generations of South African artists to live in exile or to stay and create art that spoke out against an oppressive government. In an interview quoted in the OtB program, he shies away from the notion that he creates activist art. But having seen the work of the Market Theatre – a racially integrated, political theatre company in Johannesburg (which the Afrikaner government amazingly allowed not only to perform there, but even to tour the world) – I saw many of the same elements tonight. Cekwana’s Floating Outfit Project doesn’t have to rail against the same oppression, and so he can afford to be more polite about it; but he does have a sense of history (most prominent in the second piece on the bill, “Ja’nee”) and he knows there is still a lot to cry about in South Africa.


    The structure of “Ja’nee” – the more significant of the evening’s two pieces – is very loose and non-linear. Coupled with songs and monologues in a foreign language, it took me a while to get a handle on what was unfolding. A story is being told, of course; at different times it comes out through diverse elements of dance, of theatre, certainly music, and even images projected on screens or hung in photographs on a clothesline. But even if it's loose around the edges, Cekwana strings some dazzling sequences together at its heart.


    What we see, as the curtain rises, is an abstract glimpse of life in the dormitory townships of mine workers. A man watches TV in one corner of the stage; across the way, two others hang out over cigarettes; another lies sleeping. All the while, a low moan of singing weaves these street scenes together. Suddenly one man takes stage with a torrent of shouting, strutting, and the sharp baton-twirling of his stick. Breathlessly, he rants on and on. He seems to be angry; the opening-night audience was relieved to learn in the Q&A afterwards that he is actually declaiming his proud ancestry – a common way for men to puff out their chests for the ladies.


    This is still an old-fashioned, male-dominated society we are seeing – men working the mines are only allowed to go home and see their wives once a year – but there is one lady present, at least in Cekwana’s company. Sexy but standoffish, she roams around them as though she were in a parellel universe. Even as the men gather centerstage for a sort of break-dancing exhibition, she is there, tiptoeing around them, a very literal representation of women’s slowly increasing place in their world. She could be a continuation of the slow-motion butoh character the same dancer played in the opening piece, “Rona”. But then, the men retreat upstage; and left alone at last, she bursts into her moment, gracefully swooping and gliding along in front of them.


    Another undercurrent of “Ja’nee” is the misery of mine work itself; we don’t see this literally, but it’s represented by gumboots, those tall rubber Wellingtons all mineworkers wear (some even hand-paint theirs in a colorful act of individualism). Once again, the men ward off misery with music; in another core section of the piece, four of them launch into a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, rousing dance that can only be described as tap dancing in work boots. It’s pure delight, even as it illustrates that blend of old world and new, of tribal and modern, that so fascinates Cekwana. As we keep seeing these kinds of crossovers, I kept coming back to one thought: There isn’t a single dance trick you can see on a New York street – no rapper, break-dancer, or hip-hopper’s best moves, surrounded by that ever-present circle of tourists – which didn’t happen in Africa first.


    Go check it out this weekend. Who knows when you’ll have another chance to connect with a faraway culture so authentically. Bravo, Lane and Sarah, for bringing Boyzie Cekwana to Seattle.

    posted by deardepartedpast @ 1:46 am | Permanent link

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Tuesday, January 31


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