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Students leap to demanding choreography in dancing showcase

Judging from the explosion of ideas, innovation, commitment and performance on the Joseph Stone Theatre stage in Athlone, there’s no shortage of creativity and artistic expression from teachers and students of Dance for All (DFA). The non-profit dance teaching organisation held its annual performance on 19 November 2011 at which it was made plain that the nurturing of the company was in good nick.

Students leap to demanding choreography in dancing showcase

Photo by Kent Lingeveldt

Yes, there’s always that ever-present matter of funding – but how the students shone at the showcase of their year’s work!
 
This is no mean feat considering that DFA, also based in Athlone and staffed by former professional dancers and some of its first students, serves young people from severely deprived, disadvantaged and devastated backgrounds. The discipline these kids must summon just to make it to class – and perform to boot – is an unsung tribute to their commitment to overcoming adversity against horrific odds.
 
What unfolded on stage was therefore a revelation not lost on the lively audience – family and extended family members and friends of performers – who jumped at every opportunity to express their appreciation. Barring understandable nervous jitters and minor lapses in concentration, the choreographers are to be lauded for managing to draw such exacting performances from one and all of these very gifted young people dancing some quite difficult and extended pieces set to intricate musical passages.
The execution of the 11 presentations was an inspiration for the future of community dance in our part of the world.
 
One of the first, following a sweet classical balletic opening stanza by Ingrid Carlson called “Rococo Moves”, was “Strong Woman”, choreographed by Bruno Wani. It featured performers in a clever shedding of “skin”; costumes were changed from a constricting and uniform ghostly white – danced to dramatic movements – to reveal leopard print tops and black tights, danced to more effusive rhythms provided by two onstage djembe drummers.
 
“My Instrument” was an energetic and bone-crunching piece choreographed by senior student Byron Klassen, with original poetry by Nathan Bartman, whose sinewy breakdance movements were as fluid and electric as an eel’s. Klassen is on the verge of an overseas trip Stateside for one of several workshops that arose when he was spotted by visiting dance teachers earlier this year. He is one of four dance students for whom DFA, which sports 100 young boy students, has facilitated overseas opportunities this season.
 
Klassen – who dances in the moment, and in the moment forgets and loses himself so joyously – demonstrated his obvious talent particularly in the closing piece, “Four Part Fusion + 1”. Choreographed by one of South Africa’s plethora of artistic exports, Christopher Kindo, it featured a mixture of musical styles leaping smartly one to the other – from be-bop to cheeky ragtime and shuffle, to demanding avant garde. Executed with remarkable discipline by the dancers, they rose admirably to these testing interludes of varying rhythms and beats.
 
Indeed, the close collaboration between all the students and their teachers on the day was the overriding observation that impressed the most for the discipline they produced on stage.
 
Music selection, too, was outstanding and played no small part in the successful communication of the individual pieces with the collective audience. It included and ranged from Peter Gabriel and Sting to Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet’s eerie excerpts from the Requiem for a Dream movie score, to Miles Davis, to Soul Africa, to Dave Grusin, and some of the classical composers.
 
The afternoon was also marked by teacher Margie Sim’s tender offering, “To a Lavender Lady”, her tribute to Heather Boyd, mother of DFA CEO, Philip Boyd, who died this year. The day though belonged to the performing students and their ebullient fans. 
 
– Review written by Yazeed Fakier (fakieryazeed@gmail.com)
 
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