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by Sihle Mthembu / 27.09.2010

The 2010 edition of the Jomba Contemporary Dance Experience finally ended after 12 days of cutting edge moves (as the kids say). Crowds from the length and breadth of Mzansi will have to wait another year for a dose of slamming contemporary fusion. Hosted by the University of KZN and the Centre for Creative Arts, the festival is 12 this year.

A local show called Threads – created by legendary activist Sylvia Glasser – is an epic visual poem using renowned poet Lebo Mashile (famous for her SABC series Latitude). It seeks to answer that ever lingering question, where do I fit in? A tantalising mixture of physical and psychological theatre.

A number of less elaborate (but equally effective) productions highlighted the power of intimacy in a genre often eroded by lavish sets, over the top costumes and out there performers in rah rah ensemble shows. I thank you – written and choreographed by Sifiso Majola – was performed by the first physical theatre company (from Grahamstown), and explored how the body records its own history through habitual gesture and repetition.

Jomba, though widely known, still feels like an insider cult experience, a wonderful open secret (much like Oppikoppi). It’s that cult audience (and the often mindblowing shows) that have made the festival special. This year Jomba integrated a large scale exhibition, Red Eye, curated by David Gouldie, based on the theme of Body Politics. Painters, sculptors, DJ’s, fine artists and tattooists all working live in real time.

Jomba never fails to attract international acts looking to test new ground with South African audiences. Haine Terre Rieur performed by the Soul City Crew of Reunion Island was a beautiful duet exploring cultural definitions there. The two dancers (Didier Boutianaa and Shany Arzeux) are hip hop trained (versed in street battles and slam offs) and had never done any major contemporary dance before. But their ability to translate the choreography into a gripping and meaningful narrative was exhilarating.

Over 12 days the constant performances asking important & challenging question can run the risk of intellectual overkill. Humour and dance don’t get together too often so “The making of spectacles”was refreshing. A show where the audience gets to decide how the storyline progressed by voting. Unique design and lighting elevate a piece that vaults over the fourth wall. The shows’ Woody Allen-esque slapstick didn’t hurt.

All in all Jomba took names and kicked ass.

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