Review of African Performing Arts show at College of the Arts 18 April 2012
My ballet class is cancelled and so during this time I can dedicate my time to writing about dance and in fact the dance that I saw in the courtyard outside of the dance studio. Last week Wednesday I saw the play or music called the Jelous Queen. The set consisted of enclosures made of trees, drums and huge pistels and mortars for grinding grain as well as other typical traditional implements of an Owambo village in Namibia. So forgive me if I this is all the context I will give of the play, because dance writing is about reflecting on what I found meaningful. This was definitely the dance of the two ladies dressed in characteristic pink, black stripped, ondelela dresses. It does not take long for you to appreciate the dance they did for what it is:a physical manifestation of the drumming . The knees are softly bent and the arms kept almost outstretched making their way to the heavens as if to make space or the thunderous rhythms the feet do at the beat of the drums . The two dancers executed the steps as I had seen it performed countless times before at the usual performance contexts, national holiday celebrations in stadiums, the energy is down as the feet pound the earth beneath the dancers, akin to the energy of a ballerina flicking her foot swiftly of the floor in a petit jeté (little jump).But what I found different about the performance was the relationship of the two dancers. They eyed each other and then turn cheekily around themselves , as if chasing their shadows. The eye contact developed into the space between them, a clear linear relation of them on opposite ends and the coming close together to chase each other and they also did the same whip like turn around themselves .
From my position up in the risers it was magnificent- like bees or birds twirling around each other. This I had not seen before as usually women seem to dance this dance (I wish I knew exactly what the name of this traditional Owambo step) at arbitrary positions in relation to each other but here was something else! Pity it was shortlived. But then again perhaps that what captivated me the ephemeral and brisk nature of it. The dance was performed in the context of a party the Jealous Queen threw for her village and the play revolves around her envy of a visiting singer.