Dance review: Indoni Dance Academy, Cape Town, Dancing Through Lockdown, short film, online

What: Dancing Through Lockdown Who: Indoni Dance Academy  Format: Online dance film- 6 min, 13 secs Where: How much: No charge Donate link: November 2020- indefinitely Choreography: Sbonakaliso Ndaba Music: Reinhardt Buhr’s song, Desert Nomad, from his album Movement 2 (2019)

South Africa went into national lockdown on March 26, 2020. However, the dancers of Indoni Dance Academy in Cape Town kept moving and creating, at home. When lockdown regulations were eased, Indoni’s artistic director, Sbonakaliso Ndaba directed solo performances in and outside of the homes of the dancers. Filming took place in Khayelitsha, Langa and Philippi. A finale was staged at Artscape Theatre. It was the first time that the company was able to be together, for months. Vignettes and fragments were compiled into Dancing Through Lockdown, a short film (six minute and 13 second). The pieces are set to a stirring song Desert Nomad, by Reinhardt Buhr.

South Africa was faced with one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. We were locked up and out from society. People were isolated and disconnected from each other. It was tough, with people feeling that they were climbing the walls; pacing the kitchen; pacing up and down. It was great deal more challenging for those residing in townships, in under-resourced communities, with cramped conditions and overcrowding. The notion of staying “safe” and “at home” in lockdown in townships is another story. In this short dance film, choreographer, Sbonakaliso Ndaba, nails the sense of isolation and being trapped in spaces. The masked dancers move from bedroom, to yard, to rooftop to playground. It is a film which speaks of yearning and entrapment but also about resilience and the power of creativity and play as bodies interact with duvets, cushions, washing on the line. The kitchen is the stage and so is the bedroom and yard. Ultimately, it is through movement and music that these artists transcend limitations- physical, emotional and financial. At the end, we see the dancers on stage at Artscape, re-united as a company. Masks are firmly on but the ending is upbeat. The company is together again- in a theatre- big space – ready to be used again.

I am used to seeing Indoni performing in large spaces – often at festivals – with physically charged dance and epic scale staging.  Signature Indoni involves lifting and throwing of bodies; big movements, rage, fury, sweat, noise of bodies swishing; crowding each other. It is a different experience, to see this intimate lockdown dance film. It is emotionally charged with an intense urgency to reflect the sense of ‘dancing through lockdown’. The dancers were/are still creating and imaging themselves- within the confines of their homes- and taking ownership through their art.

Dancing Through Lockdown is a beautiful short dance film which conveys volumes about the strange year of 2020- and its continuation into 2021. Lockdown did not put a leash on Indoni Dance Academy. This film was released in November 2020, when it seemed that the pandemic was relatively under control. When I first watched this film [November 2020], I was rushing around, watching shows in theatres. Seating was socially/physically distanced and the audience wore masks but live performance was on track. I was ecstatic to once again use the hashtag #chooselive. My reviews of the digital stage were put on hold. At that time, the ‘new normal’ was being cited and we thought that we could ‘live’ with the pandemic. Sitting in the confined space of a theatre was part of that construct. I took a ‘measured risk’ in attending performances in theatres. Sadly, infection rates climbed. Here we are, January 2021, with the surge of the new Covid variant. We recently went from lockdown 1 to lockdown level 3, amended. We don’t know how long it will take before the pandemic will be under control and when it will be ‘safe’ to commune in a theatre. At the moment, I don’t feel ‘safe’. I am not taking a ‘measured risk’ by venturing into theatres.  I hope that the vaccine arrives soon and/or the pandemic may be brought under control. I will re-asses and monitor the situation. Until then, I have my eyes and ears tuned into the digital stage. Yes, nothing beats ‘live’ but this is what we have in this moment. Enjoy Dancing Through Lockdown. There is no charge but donations are appreciated.