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Joburg, March 9

By March 14, 2010December 17th, 20142010 Director's Notes, 2010 Travels in Johannesburg

I spend most of the morning writing and taking another long walk around our  neighborhood. Tonight we see a new work, “Batsumi,” by Thabo Rapoo, a young choreographer with Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM).

MIDM is the most established company in Joburg. It was founded in 1978 by Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser as a non-racial dance company and training organization, during the height of apartheid. Dance was used as a form of cultural resistance to apartheid. At the basis of all the work was the concept of integration – integration of people as well as the integration of African and Western cultures. MIDM’s signature Afro-fusion style was born at this time – a blending of African ritual, music and dance with Western contemporary dance forms. Vincent Mantsoe has taught Afro-fusion at BDF and this summer Michel Kouakou will teach his version during the Young Dancers Workshop.

Sylvia Glasser has been a leading force in contemporary dance in South Africa. She has discovered and trained many artists who have gone on to successful independent careers such are Vincent Mantsoe, Gregory Maqoma, Moektsi Koena, David Matamela and others.

MIDM has recently moved into a fabulous new building next door to Dance Factory and Dance Forum and across Fitzgerald Square from the Market Theatre. It is the arts district. Here the three leading dance organizations sit side by side with great potential for collaboration. MIDM’s building is modern, colorful and pretty swanky. It features three studios, a library, meeting room and offices for the staff.

Thabo Rapoo while not trained at MIDM is currently creating works on the company. He is a musician and choreographer. Tonight we see “Batsumi” that deals with hunters (men) and gatherers (women) and the states their travel through. It features live music performed on two violins, cello, keyboard and percussion. Thabo plays percussion. The musicians are set on a raised platform at the back of the stage. The piece, which includes nine dancers, begins with one male dancer coming down through the audience singing a traditional song.

The vocabulary is a mix of traditional and contemporary movement. The most inventive choreography comes midway with a duet featuring imaginative lifts. This is a fresh young group of dancers who are strong performers who will develop with more performance experience. The piece goes on too long and has several potential endings. It would benefit from some serious editing. The music is lyrical and gorgeous. It carries the piece and sometimes stands out more than the dancing.  The audience appears to include many friends and family who are very  enthusiastic.