Contemporary dance

Too much virtuosity hurts Lonely Together

Gregory Maqoma and Roberto Olivan are Lonely Together. Photograph by Albert Vidal.

Gregory Maqoma and Roberto Olivan are Lonely Together. Photograph by Albert Vidal.

It’s a completely astonishing privilege to watch both Gregory Maqoma and Roberto Olivan perform. They gyrate like whirligigs, they contort and jetee as though they have quicksilver in their veins and fire instead of bones. They are mesmerising in their beauty, in collaboration and individually.

The work’s title offers you insight into the nuance projected by and contained in it, but as you sit and focus through its hour of intensity, you find yourself working quite hard to pin a resonance with the title with what you are seeing here. The title of the work implies some kind of relationship with the world, and with each other, but more than about togetherness or aloneness, it’s a piece about virtuosos doing their thing, casting in-house jokes and reflecting underdeveloped narrative ideas to audiences who love them anyway.

The work judders to a standstill conceptually a few minutes in, when the dancers stop dancing and begin a conversation which is not audible to the audience. It feels puerile. And conjoined with a bit of clowning, under the pall of music so loud and trance-inducing you can’t hear it, it feels insulting to the monumental start to the piece.

Sadly, after this interregnum, the work’s momentum is contorted and while the dance remains beautiful, it lacks a logical cohesion or a narrative line which is clear to the non-dancer in the audience. You don’t know when it ends why it has ended, or why it didn’t end earlier. And the break in focus makes its hour long duration seem like three.

Maqoma and Olivan clearly had a lot of fun putting this piece together, but one strict outside directorial hand or eye is lacking: this piece deserves narrative punch, nuance, darkness and light. As does its audience.

  • Lonely Together is choreographed and danced by Gregory Maqoma and Roberto Olivan, featuring music composition and interpretation by Laurent Delforge, dramaturgy by Roberto Magro, lighting by CUBE.BZ and costumes by Black Coffee. It performed at the John Kani Theatre, Market Theatre complex on September 3 and 4, programme 4 of the Dance Umbrella 2014.

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