651 Arts presented the New York premiere of “Exit/Exist,” a solo dance concert choreographed and conceived by the renowned South African dancer, choreographer, and director, Gregory Maqoma, performed with his company Vuyani Dance Theatre and presented at LIU, Kimble Theatre on Nov. 1 and 2, while on tour of several countries and cities around the world. His USA Tour began on Oct. 13 to Nov. 10, 2013 and he will return next year from June 25-30.
Gregory Vuyani Maqoma has assembled an amazing team of collaborators to carry out and execute this poignant work: South African director, James Ngcobo, South African songwriter, Simphiwe Dana, Italian composer and musician, Giuliano Modarelli, and Complete, a quartet of South African musicians and singers. “Exit/Exist” chronicles heroic story of his ancestor, Chief Maqoma’s fight against the European invaders of his native land and his people. Chief Maqoma was a nineteenth-century leader and renowned warrior who battled the European invaders and colonizers on three frontiers, but was ultimately defeated. He is a hero among his people, the Xhosa and a villain to the European invaders, colonizers and exploiters. He died in 1873, under mysterious circumstances, while incarcerated on Robben Island.
Gregory Maqoma has borrowed from his traditional African dance traditions and his western training, together with his original ideas about movement to produce the choreography for this work. He and other African choreographers and dancers are developing a new dance lexicon. They are engaged in creating new dance. They are not performing those traditional African dances that we have come to know and identify as African dance and African movement. Whether from Senegal, Cote D’ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mali, Cameroon, South Africa or any of the other continental African countries, they are making new dance and creating new dance language.
In “Exit/Exist” we see Moqoma often sliding one foot, while tapping with the other as a drummer might rub the head of his drum with one hand while striking it with his other hand to produce a certain kind of sound or rhythm. Behind Moqoma both literally and figuratively is the quartet Complete chanting in Xhosa and guitarist, Giuliano Modarelli playing behind the scrim. The lighting changes to conceal their presence, to reveal them full on, or in silhouette to dramatize and compliment Mogoma’s movement. On occasion text is flashed across the back wall, a translation the Xhosa lyrics to assist the story telling. I found it difficult to read the text and still follow Moqoma’s movement and gave up trying to read and instead gave my attention to the dance movement.
“Exit/Exist” definitely captures your attention and keeps you focused on the unique dance movements of Moqoma’s body as you try to comprehend the tale of struggle in defense of homeland and cultural that the Xhosa people engaged in with European colonist during the nineteenth century.
Website: http://vuyani.co.za/, excerpts of “Exit/Exist” can be seen on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPOwuUvXugI
© Amun/Ankhra House, Ltd.