The past month has really brought back the nightmare of Covid for the arts with the staging of two mesmerising shows at the Joburg Theatre highlighting the miracle of live theatre. DIANE DE BEER speaks her mind:

First off there was August Wilson’s Fences with an amazing, vibrant cast  just right for the present time. As I have written in a previous post, there was nothing to fault. But what reminded me even more strongly what we missed during Covid,  was a second show, this time contemporary dance with two of the best in the business and with the choreographers almost reaching the status of elder statesmen.

But let’s refer to them (Gregory Maqoma and Vincent Mantsoe) as the wise men of dance as they tap into the time in a way that elevates the show in so many ways.

What they presented with their specific talents and differing styles together, is so smart. I am not a dance critic, so I tread lightly when commenting on dance yet theatricality is much more universal and an easy one to asses.

While Mantsoe is much more the traditionalist, someone who time and again returns and robustly mines his roots, Maqoma bristles with contemporary energy and enthusiasm, which makes this the perfect pairing and shows the capacity and capability of the Vuyani dancers at their best.

The masters Vincent Mantsoe (below left) and Gregory Maqoma (below right) and the magnificent Vuyani dancers.

It’s in the moves, but it’s also in the mood they create on stage as the interpret their different choreographers with a precision and passion that takes your breath  away. And because of the temperature differences in the approach of the two choreographers, that’s what really gift wraps the entire production so stylishly and with such abundant generosity for the audience.

It’s the full spectrum of emotions which makes for the perfect experience in the theatre. And that’s what we missed, artists performing with a passion that comes across in every lift of a head and every tweak of a muscle.

From the costumes by Asex, which also marked the two presentations very specifically, to the exquisite music specially created for this presentation by Andrea Cera (for Mantsoe) and Elvis Sibeko (for Maqoma). Lighting by Wilhelm Disbergen, is again in a distinct language for the individual storytelling, and generously captures the atmosphere.

The masters Vincent Mantsoe (below left) and Gregory Maqoma (below right) and the magnificent Vuyani dancers.

With the programme digitally set up in the foyer for everyone to access, it enhances the experience for each individual attending. They’ve leapt bravely into a new year, one still hanging by a thread with still so much uncertainty in the world.

But the artists understand. They know there’s no holding back. As long as there are audiences, they have to tell their stories in their own way – and when they do it with such confidence as these two do, the audiences are there .

That’s been amazing and exciting to see with both Fences and ZO!Mute, neither of which will necessarily appeal to the masses – and yet, both shows I attended were packed and with an audience who were there to watch and take on anything on offer from start to finish.

That’s not always a given in the arts. I have been in many theatre and dance shows where you wish there was an audience to witness the wonders on stage. But it seems, Covid has brought a new kind of awareness.

It happens too often. When we have shows in abundance, we don’t always pay attention. But take them away – at least the live ones – for a few years, and the value of artists and what they have to say and show us seems suddenly to be appreciated.

It shouldn’t be that way,  but that’s life.

The Vuyani Dancers choreographed by Vincent Mantsoe.

Just becoming used to  the idea again of live theatre returning to our lives in full splendour, I want to shine a light on how blessed we all are to have these artists around us who bring so much to our lives.

Sometimes it silly escapism, other times it’s the marvel of their artistry. Storytelling in some form is always part of the equation and if it is for that alone, the constant expansion of our minds, we should all appreciate the sparkle, the sublime and the sheer wonderment they bring to our lives.

The Vuyani dancers cvhoroegraphed by Gregory Maqoma.

Following sold-out performances in the 2022  singer Simphiwe Dana Announces the returns with Moya directed by the prolific Gregory Maqoma under the musical direction of the seasoned Titi Luzipho, which will be staged on the Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre, from tomorrow (Friday) until Sunday (March 3 to 5).

It has been an incredible journey for Dana in the music business and her powerful and soulful voice has moved the hearts of fans across international stages. She was just a young girl from the Eastern Cape, who initially doubted the sound of her voice, before realising its strength through song. Her activist work has also allowed her voice to highlight serious social issues such as the discriminatory plight that women face.

Moya, is filled with themes of spirituality, and healing, which is inspired by the concept of loss and life. Simphiwe started writing the show after the passing of her mother, trying to find a way of understanding and healing from the loss.

The Simphiwe Dana show Moya directed by Gregory Maqoma this weekend.

Her music will be complimented by the creative fusion of contemporary African dance by the dynamic Vuyani dancers. Her story is told through the acapella roots of her music.

Tickets are available for bookings at at R350 to R550 with corporate bookings and a VIP experience from R1 000.

He is also part of the long-awaited The Head and the Load which due to Covid has been rescheduled from Friday April 21 to Saturday 6 May, also at the Joburg Theatre.

e is also part of With music composed and conceived by Philip Miller with Thuthuka Sibisi, this is William Kentridge’s exploration of Africa’s role in the First World War combining music, dance, film projections, mechanized sculptures and shadow play to illuminate the untold story of the millions of African porters and carriers who served- and in many cases died for- British, French and German battlefield forces.

Freighted with the weight of this little-examined history and quickened by Kentridge’s visionary theatrical alchemy, The Head & the Load has been described as an exceptionally ambitious work of performance.

And all of this is just the start of a momentous year for the monumental artist Gregory Maqoma.Watch this space in a year he celebrates his half century.