4: Mixed Bag, Mixed Feelings

4’s poster image. (supplied)

Using Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as a point of departure, four choreographers have each created a ‘season’ with the dance students of Oakfields College.

Ok, the truth is I liked much of 4 but with some elements, I wasn’t sold. The choreography is excellent – it should be with Sunnyboy Motau, Bailey Snyman, Gladys Agulhas, and Ignatius van Heerden choreographing. But with such large casts (inescapable with this type of setup) it’s sometimes difficult to connect with the people on stage, and so we lose the personal relationship and fall into a cerebral analysis (e.g. it’s autumn now, they look like dried up leaves on the ground) or we simply sit back and enjoy the ‘show’ of dance.

You say, “but those aren’t bad things”. Yes, they’re not. It’s not bad to interpret imagery and meaning, it’s not bad to enjoy a display of technique and athleticism and young dancers practicing their skill. But along with those boxes, we need to check the box of being moved, or stirred, or awoken to something previously unknown.

That is not sustained throughout 4. Not to say it doesn’t happen. Within each season, enticing moments occur.

In ‘Spring’ (by Sunnyboy Motau), a dancer is lifted and placed atop the group, evoking the image of a blooming flower. There is harvest, and growth, and the breath of life. It’s pretty, it’s simple.

In ‘Summer’, Bailey Snyman’s signature style shines though. It’s no summer lovin’ scene; it’s rather dark in fact, driven and forceful. What I enjoyed was the departure from the ‘hetero’ dance pairing – a two-man duet drives the section… they caress and embrace, and with a momentary closing image, a boy and girl meet – mirroring the boy and boy – inviting comparison; ‘what, really, is different here?’

‘Autumn’ by Gladys Agulhas is (as suggested above) filled with lovely literal imagery; the dancers become falling leaves. The floorwork and contorted bodies create pictures of crinkled and dried up crackly leaves – it’s quite beautiful. And the full stage of five or six simultaneously moving groups was visually exciting.

In ‘Winter’, Ignatius van Heerden departs from these other styles – his aesthetic is markedly different. Darker, dangerous, daring. He uses recordings of Auschwitz survivors telling their painful stories and the dancers respond in stylised, intense, disrupted movement, dressed in grey costumes evocative of uniforms. Although the concept and choreography, with Vivaldi’s score, is decidedly strong, I wasn’t convinced all the dancers managed the gravitas necessary for such a piece.

4 is a quadruple bill of distinctive styles. And so, different people will enjoy different moments. It is a polished piece, performed by accomplished dance students, choreographed by some of SA’s top choreographers. Yet I feel some ambivalence towards the overall effectiveness of the work, left removed from being moved by it.

— Sarah Roberson

4 is on at Centenary Hall, tomorrow 06 July at 14.00. Bookings here.

Director: Ignatius van Heerden
Choreographers: Gladys Agulhas, Sunnyboy Motau, Bailey Snyman & Ignatius van Heerden
Music Composed By: Vivaldi, Max Richter
Featured Artists: Students of Oakfields College Faculty of Dance and Musical Theatre

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