MOVING Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) had the foresight last year to sign Sifiso Kweyama on to its team. Kweyama, a dance-maker from KwaZulu-Natal, has a formidable list of choreographic credits to his name and has taken on the role of company manager and rehearsal director.
Last year, with funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Kweyama journeyed to Mpumalanga to start work on a new piece, The Triumph, inspired by Mac Manaka's seminal poem "Triumphants in our Time".
In keeping with MIDM's commitment to engaging artists in provinces further afield than Gauteng, Kweyama brought in 14 young, aspiring dancers from the Patriot Theatre Projects (four of whom are now first-year trainees with MIDM in Mpumalanga) and convinced legendary Ray Chikapa Phiri (who is also Mpumalanga-based) to create the music. Jerry Mofokeng came in as a director.
The Triumph is scheduled for performances at the Hillbrow Theatre at the end of July and this version, a full-length work, has been slightly reworked for a bigger cast of first- and second-year trainees at MIDM. Kweyama notes that "the process last year was hard; I was working with untrained, raw bodies and I had to adapt my ideas to suit their skills. This time, the dancers have more context and experience. It has been a great journey to witness them developing into promising dance performers."
He says he was deeply moved by Manaka's writing, which prompted him to reflect on all those who participated in the struggle but have not been recognised. "We always acknowledge the famous names but there were many who went before us who sacrificed so much for the struggle for freedom in this country - the mothers who stayed behind when their men were jailed, the fathers in prison, those in exile, those who buried their children - and we will never know all their names and faces."
The Triumph celebrates the triumphs of the human spirit and the tribulations that were endured by many whose lives continue to be affected by the fight for democracy and equality. The notion of time looms large in the piece - time lost; time wasted; time that can never be regained; time spent in fruitful labours; and the agony of time passing, people waiting in hope for change to come.
On working with the likes of Phiri and Mofokeng, Kweyama pays tribute to their gifts: "As an artist, one gets once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to work with special individuals; they have shared with me the talents that make them great artists. The musicians who will be performing Ray's music live are from Alexandra - it is very exciting for them to have been touched by him."
Kweyama knew he needed assistance to shape the scripted text and ensure the dancers could deliver the message clearly, and so enlisted Mofokeng to direct the production, which encompasses dance, poetry and music.
. The Triumph will have three free performances at the Hillbrow Theatre on July 26 and 27 at 14pm and July 28 at 6pm. www.midance.co.za