Dance Umbrella: Ebhofolo
12 October 2009 at 11.22am | Comment on this article
As part of the Dance Umbrella festival taking place across various London venues, the Linbury Studio Theatre presented Ebhofolo at the end of last week, a contemporary dance work created by South African choreographer and performer Vincent Mantsoe.
Ebhofolo (literally, “this madness”), examines links between madness and tradition, and coincided with the revival of Mayerling, a Royal Ballet signature piece that deals with the same underlying themes in its portrayal of a Crown Prince’s descent into madness and death. But the similarities end here. Ebhofolo seeks to conciliate tradition with cultural diversity as a “way out of madness”. Created in the beginning of 2008 in collaboration with traditional Ndebele painter Esther Mahlangu, it integrates several elements from African culture while staying focused on the everyday life and routine of the Ndebele tribe.
The work explores movement in familiar surroundings, the space in and around the tribal homestead, as represented by Mahlangu’s colourful bricks as they frame Mantsoe’s dance space. The madness of the title refers to how the clash of cultures that occur in these familiar spaces might suddenly become a strange and perhaps even oppressive landscape, as conveyed through energetic and restless dancing.
To emphasize the message of cultural integration, Mantsoe uses music of Persian origin (by Kayhan Kalhor) as a backdrop for the choreography. His dance style traces back to his heritage as a “Sangoma” healer but also borrows from such other influences as traditional African ritual dances, martial arts, Indian and even Balinese dance. Switching between these styles Mantsoe is able to alternate characters so that the audience can imagine that his movement portrays a warrior, a healer and, at one point, a woman. This interesting mix serves as an example of how dance keeps evolving and finding new ways to convey meaning through movement.
Dance Umbrella is a project committed to the promotion and development of contemporary dance and emerging choreographers. For audiences used to classical dance, seeing works such as Ebhofolo are a great way to dive into the world of contemporary dance and witness the diversity of works which take place within the various spaces of the Royal Opera House.