How to dance about a virus



A man and his angst. Vincent Mantsoe in ‘Cut’. Photograph courtesy IFAS.

AS THIS ALMOST 17-minute long video begins, you feel torsion in your gut. The layers of the kind of discomfort one experiences in lockdown are articulated in the impossibly, claustrophobic tight frames and how the dancer is from time to time rudely cut from his context. But also by the force that this dancer contains. He is Vincent Mantsoe, one of the few South African-trained contemporary dancers who consumes all your physical strength as you watch him dance, and the work is Cut, streaming for free through Facebook until 2 July. There’s an abstraction to the way in which he seems to contemplate and contain his gestures that on one level make the idea of conventional dance seem minimal and that of meditative muscle maximised. But that is not all.

Like Jorge Luis Borges’s terrible and poignant foray into losing his own sight, in his poem On his Blindness, or Sara Gruen’s devastating contemplation of the vagaries of age in her novel Like Water for Elephants, the manner in which Cut confronts the hollow fear of being in forced isolation in the presence of a pandemic is excoriating and you will still feel the work in your belly long after it has finished.

And in the face of all the lockdown witticisms, the things that were once funny and are no longer, the observations about restricted creature comforts that have rapidly turned from privileged whines into foolish platitudes, we gaze at a terror bigger than we understand, and we find a thing of immense and wise, if open-ended, beauty.

While on your first watching of the piece you may feel irritated with the way in which the cinematographer cuts the dancer’s space, when you watch it again, and again, you realise that is the whole point. With haunting and disjointed sound, the work was collaboratively made through the medium of email and it is in this lissome visual and fluid conversation of three skilled people that Cut emerges. Devastatingly tough.

As Mantsoe drips with sweat in the confines of his own space, he articulates a whole world gone broken with his immense physique and his deeply thoughtful approach that segues body and soul in the life-voice of this work.

  • Cut is choreographed and performed by Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe. It features creative input by Mpho Molikeng (music) and Frank Pizon (cinematography). Made for the internet, it streams for free on demand on both the Market Theatre and the French Institute’s facebook pages from June 18 until 2 July 2020.

3 replies »

Leave a Reply