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There is a dance group located in the township of Tembisa and its changing young lives and creating opportunities through dance.
Joburgers looking for a taste of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival have until Sunday to plunge into 969 festival at the Wits Theatre.
The festival showcases 20 of the top performances from art festivals main stages as well as the fringe.
Wits Theatre director Gita Pather called 969 festival a success with sold out performances all week. She said organising the festival is a lot of hard work but her job is made easier because she selects productions only from the Grahamstown festival to bring to Wits.
“This university is about collaboration, about pushing the boundaries of the work we do in whatever we do … and the Wits Theatre is about providing an incubator for new talent,” Pather said.
One of the key changes made this year was moving 969 festival closer to the national event in Grahamstown.
Pather said this year’s festival gained a unique aspect because it has been filled with immensely talented people and different plays which had a mix of dance, drama, physical theatre and stand-up comedy. “I think all theatres and all festivals reflect their artistic directors and their particular bent towards the arts,” said Pather.
One of the productions for the 969 festival, Hamlet directed by Jenine Collocott, had its first performance on Wednesday night with a good turnout. Collocott describes the play as a comedia delighte of the Shakespearean Hamlet.
Hamlet is a 35-minute performance which consists of comedy, physical theatre, and improvisation which is stylistically inspired by the story of Hamlet. It features actors James Cairns, Jaques De Silva and Taryn Bennett.
A student production, Ira, is a physical theatre performance which explores the strange nature of human emotions and how we express or supress them.
It is directed by Wits drama students Daniel Geddes and Mark Tatham. Geddes said he felt good about performing in this year’s 969 festival as it was his first time.
“It’s exciting and it’s also nice to have that it is also recognised in a bigger platform outside of student work,” he said.
They have also recently performed at film festivals in Grahamstown and Pretoria but Geddes says he is glad to be home at Wits because he enjoys the support of his peers.
“It’s nice coming back to Wits where your peers are kind of keen to see it,” Geddes said.
The 969 Festival was originally funded by the Johannesburg Development Agency and Wits University to give locals the opportunity to experience the national arts festival without traveling the 969 kilometres to Grahamstown.
STUDENT Mark Tatham started his varsity career doing a BCom in Business Management. A year later, he fell in love with dance and is now completing a degree in physical theatre at the Wits School of Arts. He recently performed in the physical theatre production In The Company of Wolves which was on show during o-week.
This sports crazy student is always busy doing something whether it’s scrambling over buildings doing parkour, playing hockey or working as a DJ.
What inspired you to change to a degree in the arts?
When I was at school I was interested in performing, but when I came to university I thought I should do a BCom first and then complete a BA in Drama. After a year of studying I just couldn’t handle it and so I dropped out and started a BA in 2011.
Why become a dancer?
I always saw myself as an actor. But one day I joined the parkour club for fun, in my first year as a drama student, and I fell in love with movement. Shortly after we were allowed to take physical theatre as a course and it allowed me to do what I loved.
When did you know you wanted to perform physical theatre?
I was chosen for the lead role in the play Carrying The Fire, directed by Bailey Snyman, which was on show last year. It was my experience under his direction that really cemented my love of performance.
How do you prepare mentally for a performance?
I have found the best way for me to focus is to clear my head. I walk around in circles and try not to think of my lines or what I am supposed to do next. When I am performing I do everything on instinct.
What do you love about performance?
I love the adrenaline rush of having to give the audience a show. It’s the same reason why I play sport.
Have you had to overcome any difficulties since doing your performances?
Injuries are always a problem. I have sprained my wrist, torn ligaments in my ankle and last year I broke my thumb.
How often do you practice for a performance?
Usually a production takes one to three months of work. We will practice five times a week for about three to five hours at a time. By the time you are on stage you know all your movements backwards and don’t even think about what happens next. It just happens.
One usually associates a fairy tale, like Red Riding Hood, with a small unassuming girl who gently ambles her way through the woods on the way to grandma’s house. Unknown to the red-caped girl, she is followed by a fierce wolf who among other things intends to make a lunch for two, a dinner for one. If the wolf had to see the Wits’ theatre production In The Company of Wolves, HE would have been on the menu.
In this production, the meek girl is transformed. She is manifested though the bold manoeuvres of a set of dancers that challenge the misconceptions of feminine vulnerability.
To watch the cast effortlessly weave among each other was simply sublime. Equally sublime was the musical score which paired perfectly with the dancing style. A rhythmic ebb and flow was beautifully built up to a crescendo at the end of the 25 minute production.
From walls to backstage the cast makes use good use of the Wits Nunnery, which seems very cramped when six dancers try to perform on it.
In a weirdly uncomfortable way, the cramped feeling adds toward the play’s success. You cannot distance yourself from the action.
It’s in your face and you become more involved as a result. You are also forced to respect the level of planning and curatorship involved in manoeuvring in such a small space.
Cast member Mark Tathum said that the crew was hoping the production would be in contention for the Grahamstown Arts Festival later this year.
At a cost of R10 a ticket the show is well worth making the long walk down to the South side of East Campus. It will be on till the end of the week (8 Feb) and is only showing at 13h00.
Directed by Jason Solomon and Chanelle Sardinha In The Company of Wolves delightfully overturns an out of date nursery tale and is a must see. Book it now.
In the Company of Wolves
Venue: The Wits Nunnery, close to the Wits Theatre, East Campus
Dates: O Week, 4 – 8 February 2013
Length: 25 Minutes
Cost: R10 per person