Thursday, January 8, 2015

First-Person: Dancer/Choreographer Vincent Mantsoe

(photo by Meinrad Heck)

I am Listening, I am Watching, I am Learning, I am Mu-Ntu
by Vincent Mantsoe

Growing up in Soweto, South Africa, Vincent Mantsoe learned to dance through youth clubs, street dancing and music videos. In 1990, Mantsoe won a scholarship to Sylvia Glasser's Moving Into Dance Company (MID) in Johannesburg. There, he began to explore the possibility of merging street dance with traditional dance. From 1997 until 2001, Mantsoe was associate artistic director of MID. His choreography combines traditional African dance with contemporary, aboriginal, Asian and ballet influences in a cross-cultural Afro-fusion style. He acknowledges the influence of spirituality in his creative work. Describing a process of “borrowing” from the “ancestors”, he notes the importance of understanding and appreciating the sources of his traditional movements. Mantsoe, now based in France, has toured internationally, performing at venues including The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Dance Umbrella in London, England, and Canada's National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He has also won many awards, including top prize at the Vth and VIth Rencontres chorégraphique  de Bagnolet (officially the Rencontres chorégraphique internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis) in 1996 and 1998. In 1999, he received the Prix du Peuple at the Festival international de nouvelle danse in Montréal, Canada.

I am Listening, I am Watching, I am Learning, I am Mu-Ntu:
The notion ‘NTU’ is saturated with the idea that even if nothingness pervades, there is always something taking form. It talks about what may be created in your own mind, yet there can be nothing else inside NTU except the path it is destined to take on its own.
(photo by Val Adams)

CREATE IT! See it, follow it, and then be there.
In South Africa, ‘Skwatta Camps’ are places where anybody and everybody can stay. Skwatta, the second part following NTU, focuses on the ‘underprivileged’ settlement, poverty’s friendly neighbour, and the laughing or smiling acts which portray every corner of hell. These are - or may be - the pointless arguments, strange echoes of precious cries, stirring clouds of dust day or night, like that winter blanket covering the Skwattas.

We, Skwattas, are the sophisticated in the gutters of so-called civilization - and the symbol of broken spirits. We have multiplied like bees coming for harvest; we sing, drink, dance the healing dance laughing - perhaps to the soft moaning staccato rhythms in harmony with the Skwattas. We choose this, the so-called ‘beauty’ of Skwattas; we desire this backdrop to be noble Skwattas.

Can it be jealousy that makes things impossible, and the behaviour that scandalizes us, penetrating our bones and bloodstream like a cold winter breeze while numbing our spirits? Skwatta, we somehow realize that our lives of poverty are driven by hopeless desperation; yet, the Skwatta Camps are the security without any security: Ja, Ja, ja ne, as we say. We act like we belong and we act these acts to provide some kind of proof, to secure our desires, to acknowledge the fact that we are who we are. Eish! What makes us Skwattas, what makes us loyal towards these Skwattas, to chant small cries that echo inside hearts?

What an ill Twist of fate we are in.
Human/self-conflict takes effect in such a manner that the psychological impact manifests itself in physical acts? There is no escape from other cultural influences as social and economic interaction is inevitable; we strive to survive this Dump place. Eishhh, is it hell or heaven? Someone - help us to act this out of our selves! This dull, stinky, filthy street suffocates me. No colors! It needs colors that would make these acts beautiful.

What an ill Twist of fate we are in, chaos of beauty and madness.
Yet, there is a finale or completion in realizing that assimilation and appreciation of all these manifestations may lead to personal enrichment - only when the link to one's heritage is known and restored.

Why this total massacre, while we put on painful smiles?
Re-Acted, a totally absorbed agony within us, we become isolated, as children lost in their own worlds that we couldn’t see, nor hear their pain and loneliness. These conditions, are they temporary or are they just imaginings that Skwattas are, in reality for a change?

Eish, Skwatta Camp!!!
Act, this and that, and what else? Preservation and pride, Ja, we cannot avoid the idea of ‘fake’ smiles on our faces - yet it happened before, while this nothingness and depression eats our soul like vultures, and we no longer feel the desire to be ‘this’ living human flesh, ‘this‘ soul.

Our spirits are the source that enables us to survive this Dump place, these tiny yards and box ‘so-called’ houses; the seemingly irreversible conditions that cover the Skwattas like spider webs, penetrate our eyes and future ideas saying there is no escape.

We have lost our dignity long before within this Nothingness, NTU nothing can save us from this DUMP -  or is there?

What an ill Twist of fate we are in…
Peterborough's Public Energy  Feb. 3
Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Feb. 5-7
Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre Feb 11-14.

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