Dance interview: How Alfred Hinkel’s dance piece, Bolero, inspired Lynette Du Plessis
Before you carry on reading, pause and book a ticket to see Die Dans Van My Heenkoms, Bolero stories told by Alfred Hinkel– a film which is streaming on Quicket, until August 17 [2021 – in case you read this, after the event. Booking link: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/dance-film-online-screening-die-dans-van-my-heenkoms-bolero-stories-told-by-alfred-hinkel-july-aug-2021/]. The film, tagged by many as the “Bolero film” has been produced by Garage Dance Ensemble in Okiep in the Northern Cape. The dancers are from Garage. It is a beautiful and stirring film, which tracks the journey of the dance piece Bolero, choreographed by Alfred Hinkel- from 1976 to 2020- hard lockdown – in Okiep. The wonderful music by Ravel and superb Garage dance artists – makes for a mesmerising viewing experience. The current screening of the film is part of a fund-raising drive by Garage to enable the company to supply dance materials to learners at schools in South Africa. Get your ticket, now and please donate while you are on the platform. The film is not geo-locked and may be viewed from anywhere in the world. Spread the word to help Garage to reach its ticket target and go beyond that so that it can do its wonderful work in Okiep and around South Africa. The company currently employs seven dancers and has two trainees in its programme. Yes, this small town contemporary dance company, in an under-resourced community, is creating and making things happen. The company is under the steerage of Alfred Hinkel and John Linden and they are working with the young dancers in the company and the wider community. The town is invested in the company – in its presence and success. It is a remarkable story- emblematic of the incredible innovative spirit of resilience in South Africa- despite Covid and other obstacles This is creative activism– to ignite innovation and creativity.
Lynette Du Plessis who is a member of Garage Dance Ensemble is an ardent cultural activist. As it happens, Bolero has a special place for Du Plessis. In a sense, Bolero was her muse. The dance piece by Hinkel, sparked off her dance career. Before encountering Alfred Hinkel and seeing Bolero as part of her dance studies at school, in George, Du Plessis, had not considered dance as a career. Meeting Hinkel and watching Bolero (a filmed recording of a stage production) stopped her in her tracks. She recalls: “There were men lifting women, amazing costumes. Some of the guys had skirts. It was ground breaking for me.”
Hinkel had spotted the young dancer when he was involved with and choreographed a dance piece at her school in George. He encouraged her to apply to Jazzart Dance in Cape Town. That took some time but she subsequently was successful in getting selected by Jazzart in its three year training programme. She graduated in 2017 and worked freelance. The invitation came to join Garage and she had no hesitation in leaving George for Okiep. She became a member of Garage Dance Ensemble in June 2019. A year later, the company made the “Bolero film” and she was right there, dancing the piece which captivated her, all those years ago: “It was an honour to do Bolero. I was thrilled to do Bolero as it had such a huge influence on me. When I saw it – I went wow. I saw the classical side –the music – and gumboots. That inspired me to go into contemporary dance. It is made me realise that this is my space to tell me story.”
She did not grow up in a dance family but her brother “likes to move”. There have been challenges -many challenges – but she transcended the obstacles – via dance. What led Du Plessis to dance? She says: “In our community, everything happens in church. You learn dance. I thought – ‘okay – this is great and fun. I wanted to be on stage. I thought ‘okay – maybe I can be on stage – in my own way’. I wanted to break boundaries and rules. I was introduced to Hip Hop and Krump [street dance]. I was part of a group and we won a competition. I got a small trophy. I thought this is so kwaai. I was questioned about what I was doing- by the community. I was a girl doing Krump. I shaved my hair. I was looking at telling my stories and finding my way”.
Her interest in dance, led Du Plessis to re-evaluate her subject choices at school. She had been studying drama at her school in George – a ‘focus school for arts’. A teacher – who must have seen her dancing – suggested that she consider dance as a subject. She couldn’t do dance and drama. Dance won the toss. It was a combination of her own exploration of dance,Krump. Hip Hop, meeting Alfred Hinkel and seeing his Bolero dance piece. Here she is: Lynette Du Plessis age 25, South Africa 2021, a proud member of Garage Dance Ensemble and elated to be dancing Bolero, which motivated her to not only dance but to develop a dance vocabulary which incorporates and African sensibility within Eurocentric and classical practices – for example mashing up gumboots with classical- and making space to include motifs and images which resonate for her as an artist and for her colleagues in the company.