AS YOU SIT down and focus on the internal space created by the vast vertical diaphanous screens that are central to this piece, you might feel that you’re in the wrong seat. And as Corps unfolds, with the play of shadow with dance, video footage with photographic image, you might still get the urge to adjust your seat. But the truth, it seems, is that from which ever perspective you view this sophisticated and deep work, it feels like the proverbial grass may be greener on another seat. This disparity in the work’s structure is at once disconcerting and engaging and it’s both an upside and a downside to the work’s reception.
But it is when Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi occupy the stage at the same time, that the energy of the work reaches its unequivocal heights. The love and trust that these two dancers have for one another is articulated with delicacy and fervour, coherence and elegance, in their visual and choreographic dialogues they demonstrate and privilege you, in the audience to see. And the working together of both dancers is unquestionably the central nub of the work.
Forming concentric circles around them are the quotes and gestures of photographic pieces, focused on a range of subject matter from bodies seemingly covered in blood or mud to urban graffiti and landscapes, often too quickly displayed for your brain to recognise and work with; consequently what the overall work loses in detail it gains in texture. Indeed, this is similarly evoked in the use of sound where musical phrase, word and sound are repeated so frequently that you perceive them as patterns rather than meaningful statements, and the effect is subtly hypnotic.
Koena and Saranouffi interface and interfold with one another in a way that makes you forget they are two people. Their movements are measured, mellifluous and austere, yet the confrontation with time and space evoked by image, light and texture is aggressive and fiery. The one aspect of this work, however, which felt ill-considered was the fact that one of the diaphanous screens is a continuous panel, and the other comprises two panels pushed close together. The gap between these two panels became an eyesore in the smooth and considered interface of everything else on stage.
Corps is a tightly formed work that shies from the obvious. It is not easy to watch or to understand from a single sitting, but that splayed nature of values and tastes, texture and direction attune you to the fact that something quite extraordinary passed this way.
- Corps/Body is choreographed by Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi and features design by Seodigeng Keaoleboga (costumes), Nandele Maguni (music) and Denis Rion (lighting, videography and photograpy). It was performed by Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi in the Downstairs Theatre at Wits, on February 24 and 25 as part of Dance Umbrella 2017. Visit danceforumsouthafrica.co.za or call 011 492 0709.