Iceland receives a lesson in African choreography.

DANCING IN THE COLD: Oupa Sibeko dancing in the snow with a friend in Iceland. Photo: Provided

DANCING IN THE SNOW: Oupa Sibeko dancing in the snow with a friend in Iceland.            Photo: Provided

When a man is on the road to self-discovery he finds himself in a fishing town of Olafsvik, whose temperatures reach below -5 degrees, trying to warm the hearts of the audience with African cultural dances.

Wits graduate Oupa Sibeko is currently in Iceland performing two pieces, one of which he wrote during his honours course with the Wits Art theatre called Fear and Longing and the other Traumland-Iqhawe .

Fear and Longing was first showcased at the Roodeport Youth Arts Festival as part of his physical theatre course based on the “containment of the body”.“This is my first gig as an independent artist…this of course has to do with my training at Wits,” said Sibeko.

Traumland-Iqhawe explores the complex nature of memory and loss. “It takes the audience from a journey of riches to rags,” said Sibeko. In Fear and Longing Sibeko explores the emotional journey of fear. The dance works with abstract movements and images through his references to African cultural dancing and rituals.

“This is my first gig as an independent artist…this of course has to do with my training at Wits,”

Sibeko said that the training he received at Wits has taught him to be “open and fuse different mediums of art in [his] my work,” adding that along with his grandmothers folk tales have aided him in “crafting [his] my work.”

The former visual arts student began the independent journey as an attempt to explore different genres of dance as he does not want to “limit and box” himself. Audience reception can be “demanding” said Sibeko, referring to the eight shows he performed. “An audience that does not know you and is honest to you and views you on an international scale”, can be “intimidating”.

He describes the audience as “active agents” that influence the delivery of the work through responses such as clapping, sympathy, fear, joy and pain.

Sibeko was in Iceland from  January 13 to March 10 and will be there again, from June to mid-July. During this period Sibeko will be hosting workshops where he will be teaching afro-fusion dance styles, incorporating African dance will classic choreography  at schools in Olafsvik and Hellisandur.

How do you like your coffee?

It all began with two encounters – a fictional encounter, complicated by a peculiarly South African issue. And an encounter on a real-life level, which brought about a “mingling of different colours”.Two students,  who were no more than acquaintances before, had to work intimately together this month to create a piece of physical theatre about a relationship between two characters. But not just any two people.  56 Mocha Street follows the tensions between an interracial couple.

The Actors

5,6,7,8: Oupa Sibeko and Emma Tollman rehearse their physical theatre piece 56 Mocha Street.

5,6,7,8: Oupa Sibeko and Emma Tollman rehearse their physical theatre piece 56 Mocha Street.

Emma Tollman and Oupa Lesne Sibeko, 3rd year Drama, choreographed the piece based on their own experiences.

The two characters encounter one another in 56 Mocha Street, their home and space. Here they delve into the tensions between how society perceives interracial relationships and how they perceive themselves after being affected by society, said Sibeko.

Apart from the obvious racial tensions – between their characters and, potentially, the two of them –  the actors described what it was like to have to work together for the first time.  “I remember doing a back-to-back improvisation and Oupa’s body felt so foreign to me,” said Tollman.

How the piece was created

In creating the piece, the two took inspiration from their physical theatre class. It was about discovering “who we are in the class, personally and in the relationship”, said Sibeko. The name 56 Mocha Street uses the metaphor of coffee to describe “the mingling of different colours”, with Emma as a white female and Oupa a black male. The piece explores the intricacies of gender fights, and facing one another head-on.The two use the idea of play and using their bodies to take on the spaces in which they find themselves. Through this, they explore the idea of encounters further.

What is the piece about?

[pullquote]“It’s a vicious cycle of disconnection, finding each other and losing each other,”[/pullquote]

The piece depicts an intensely tragic relationship, “Its a vicious cycle of disconnection,finding each other and losing each other” ,said Tollman. She described the journey through Mocha Street as different from that of a more conventional theater. In this piece, “there is a disillusion of time, a flood of happenings. We are always just happening, we can’t control keeping on.”

The piece was created through a process of “play”, during which the two noticed that material “kept happening”. Through this material and their movements, they have found a story.

56 Mocha Street will be on show at the Wits Downstairs theater on August 26 and 29.