I am beginning to weary from our long days and have opted to miss a few late night performances. One reaches a point where it is just not possible to sit through another overly long and poorly constructed work without breaks to digest and articulate a response or to get a meal. There seems to be quite a lot of dissatisfaction with the current format of the platform. Too much of the work is really not ready for touring and is undermined by the artists efforts to make pieces long enough to meet the time requirements of programmers. Accomplished artists are programmed side by side with very young ones which does not serve either group. The activities have run consistently behind schedule with many changes that cause confusion. Many artists have not gotten the amount of technical rehearsal time they were promised or needed which has added stress to an already tense environment. Organizationally it is not always easy to discern who is responsible for what and stitches keep getting missed but nothing major. I sincerely hope the organizers will be open to feedback and will consider ways to strengthen to festival in coming years.
On a more positive note it has been wonderful to mingle with such a large group of African artists and European and US presenters. I have had time to visit with some of my US colleagues and get to know them better. There is much lively conversation and exchange in between the performances.
Today we began at Dance Factory at 3pm and then moved on to Soweto. Of note was Moektsi Koena & Haja Saranouffi’s piece, “Just We”. Koena attended BDF in 1997 and I haven’t seen him since so it was a real pleasure to reconnect. He moved to Madagascar nine years ago where he and Gaby Saranouffi run an annual arts festival that brings artists from across the globe. “Just We” incorporate a dj, a pile of clothes and wigs that were changed in and out of throughout the piece, a ceiling hung with many microphones that are batted abou,t and effective lighting to define scenic changes and sections. It was great to see Moektsi dance again after all these years. He is a vibrant spirit with a good sense of humor. The piece was funny, well put together and nicely danced.
We also saw a sparse, post-modern quartet by four recent graduates of P.A.R.T.S. who hail from Tunisia and Morocco. The structure was smart and efffective. The tone was distinctly different from much of the other work we are seeing.
I may be leaving something out here and there because they scrambled the schedule so much that the booklet is no longer accurate and I didn’t have the sense to write down the new order of what we saw.
Back in Soweto (a 30 minute drive without traffic) we saw a work by Boris Ganga Bouetoumousssa that was interminably long and felt quite manipulative of the audience, as well as two others works that are scrambled in my brain!
Last night we did not have the stamina to make it back to Wits Art Museum for a work entitled “Penis Politics” by Thabiso Pule and Thami Manekehla. Those who attended said that for Johannesburg it was quite bold and daring. Choreography for and by the penis–in full frontal view, nothing less! Certainly helped to shake things up a bit.