DTF 2011: Crosses and Dances with Death

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Day 1 of the 2nd annual Dance Transmissions Festival had six servings of under-20-minute dance performances at Kampala’s National Theatre. Cathy Nakawesa of Beautiful Feet Dance Company opened the showcase with a solo that showed off her dance athleticism. Her stint at Senegal’s Ecole des Sables sure stood her in good stead as she executed Influence, a self-choreographed piece in which she asks; “am I the things that influence me, whether in submission to or revolt against them?” Her principal prop is a piece of cloth she desperately wants to wiggle out of. Nakawesa has the beautiful feet every dancer worth his/her salt should aspire to possess. She seamlessly weaved traditional hip-shaking Bakisimba routines from Buganda and Zulu kicks into one dance sentence, a testimony to her ability to fuse contemporary dance with traditional African movement despite her preference for a Eurocentric classical piano soundtrack.

Youngster Phillip Roy Buyi had the other memorable solo of the night. His piece Imagination had him swinging one arm and leg like a pendulum then progress to gliding on his head and later body-jerking free-styling to a Kwaito beat. He did not have to struggle to prove he was not a one-trick [Hip-hop] dance pony. He was pretty much in control showing off the musicality of his nimble dance body, one that can move to any musical genre thrown at him.
It is not time to write off industry veteran Rogers Masaba either. Insight had him dance around three props, a desk on which he stretched his legs upwards, his hands holding his torso in space, a bench he lifted off the ground with his posterior and a stool he leapt over a couple of times. For the most part, it was paced strides across the stage down to the first row of the auditorium and then back. This was a stage sage telling us through dance motion to stick to the things in life we can perform competently to the soundtrack of raspy jazzy sounds that were not always easy on the ear.

Truth be told, Clay Dance Company had cluttered feet of clay. Tribulation came off as doomsday prophecy dance that bordered on religious fundamentalism! Black black-clad males dragging a bony topless Jesus who is later roped onto a cross. Surrounded by white-clad angels, the now resurrected tunic-clad Jesus triumphs over the black-clad agents of bondage to rescue the wretched beings they had caged. Despite the out-of-sync choreography and dancers crashing into each other half the time, this was dance putty whose enthusiasm should be the joy of any patient choreographer.

The promise of resurrection may be the Biblical quid-pro-quo for believing in Jesus but the sobering reminder in Desire Kenneth Tereka’s Death is Calling was that we had to die first with the [white cross] coffin as our last accessory, one whose colour we do not have the prerogative to choose. Everyone has a dance with death if the group choreography in which the hesitant protagonist and the quartet from Hades that the grim reaper’s bidding was anything to go by. The fact though is we all have to succumb to our mortality at some point if only we could thank the pall bearers that hoist our remains into our final resting place six feet under.

There was not much to take from the weak tea choreography in Ngwanzu, the duet by DR Congo’s Busara Dance Company. It mattered little that the stern teacher and distracted student were identical twins momentarily gyrating to signature Soukouss music. There was contemporary relevance to the subject matter of their piece. Like the heart, smartphones are not so smart after all and are a metaphor for the dissatisfaction that riddles the better part of our lives. DTF II continues at the National Theatre on Saturday (October 22) and Sunday (October 23) at 7pm. Tickets: UGX 10K.

MOSES SERUGO

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