Insight: Leftfoot Productions – two gripping dance pieces -Ikaros and Peter and the Wolf – at NAF Online 2022, the vFringe

 vNaf – virtual National Arts Festival 2022

Watch while you can:

When: Available until July 31, 2022

Click on the tab: NAF Online. You will see two tabs: 2022 NAF Online and 2022 Fringe.
Click on 2022 Fringe:  
#NAF2022 #ItWillChangeYou    

NAF online – vFringe component – wraps up on July 31. Yesterday, I stumbled on two extraordinary dance pieces by Leftfoot Productions in Johannesburg: IKARÓS and Peter and the Wolf. IKARÓS is a howl – personal outrage against the political landscape and the scars that we bear, in this country. We have all been burnt –as in the Greek myth – by the past. IKARÓS is set to the stirring La Wally /Act 1 – Ebben? Ne andrò lontana, sung by South African soprano star, Pumeza Matshikiza. The aria, is basically- about leaving home – forever. American soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez sang the stirring aria in the 1981 film, Diva. Matshikiza is magnificent. Enthralling to watch IKARÓS. Peter and the Wolf is Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 masterpiece. Peter is performed by the junior company of Leftfoot and was shot in a palatial home, on loan, which became a playground for the dancers. There is not enough time to write in-depth reviews, I am sharing some insights from Ignatius Van Heerden of Leftfoot. The booking links are in the box, above, as well as links to two other excellent online shows, which I watched this week: Old Soul Waiting and Memory Keeper.

As I am been writing, I feel that online is vital medium for theatre. NAF Online has presented shows of excellence. It is costly to film productions, particularly those which require multiple cameras, sound and design. This week, a producer, told me that it cost him over two hundred thousand Rand to film a musical theatre show with five cameras and arrange for editing. I hope that funders will come on board to make it possible for creatives to not only film their work for archival purposes but also to film, with the screen in mind, as medium. The pandemic and lockdown necessitated that creatives pivot online and now that we are pivoting to ‘normal’, let us develop online and make work accessible to wider audiences.

Ignatius Van Heerden of Leftfoot Productions:

IKARÓSfrom concept to online stage- a long haul

Ikaros, I have been trying to get off the ground for some time, but people were not interested. So I spoke to my brother, Martin [Van Heerden], who works with me [Leftfoot] and we decided to give it a go.  I created it originally for live performance, but then Vryfees did an online festival in lockdown, so we adapted it a tad for that, with the help of co-producer Andrew Steyn.  So it showed on their platform with no success, we sold five tickets, if memory serves correct. I think people were/are sceptical to watch it due to its political content/parallels. But I might be wrong.  I just really wanted to tell the story from my point of view and not just the typical apartheid messed up the country.”

Peter and the Wolf 

Peter and the Wolf, we started the beginning of 2019 specifically for NAF that year, and then lockdown happened. So, we continued creating via Zoom with our Junior Company. The kids got weekly assignments and feedback.  When they then lifted lockdown, to level 3, we started puzzling it together with the dancers both in person and online.  During that time we decided to focus on the psychological side that teenagers went through during lockdown.  So to stay in that ‘crazy’ mind set we filmed and edited it on a cellphone in a way that keeps with the nature of what they experienced and how they told their stories.”

Opera in IKARÓS

“I have always wanted to use opera in my works, but I hate it when people in theatre and film use an aria just because its opera and it has nothing to do with the storyline.  For this I wanted to use firstly a South African opera singer, Pumeza Matshikiza, who made it internationally.  The song is in the opera at a moment Wally decides to leave her home, which is what is happening in SA with all the immigrations firstly, and also in rural areas people leave their homes to the city in search of a better life under the promise of governments.  It was a right fit, and speaks volumes emotionally to me.”  

Animation, drawing, flags, objects in IKARÓS

“The sketches were done by Kyla Swart in stop-motion.  I love using animation or media in my works.  It always helps with enhancing the narrative.  So the animation was the actual story of Ikaros, then the onstage work was our story, and the flags and riots video was our country.  I had a wire head made for the Minotaur, (growing up I used to play with wire cars with the farm worker’s kids and kids still do), that was carrying the flag – representing governments. The sketches of the animation were used to build the maze (so what was animated on screen, was in a maze on stage), innocent people (not all, but many) are manipulated into riots that leave destruction in its wake, then the destroyed maze was used to build the set of wings.  Political works mostly end on a negative or with no “outcome”. I wanted to show that there is always hope, even if it is small, it is always there, a flight to freedom while the Minotaur strangles himself, like governments always do.  They are their own demise, and the people carry on. The herder, that calls his cattle, will carry on.

With regards to Leftfoot – the company

“We kept teaching during lockdown over zoom, so the studio continued at 50 % but continued.  During lockdown I was commissioned to do a work for UJ [University of Johannesburg], in collaboration with their choir, and that helped me personally to stay creative during that time.  The production company was hard to keep going, but luckily I got to perform Nijinsky’s War at Kucheza in 2020 and then spent time editing Peter and the Wolf.  In the meantime, I have partnered up with three friends, Lihan Pretorius, Johan van der Merwe and Marié-Heleen Coetzee to form another production company under the Leftfoot umbrella.  We focus on the Afrikaans festival scene and are producing four shows this year – Plesierengel, Wie Hyg So?, Oom Bey my pa and Hans steek die Rubicon oor.  This is under Leftfoot Theatre productions.  My own company Leftfoot Productions is doing, Birthing Nureyev this year [2022[, again.  So it seems like things are picking up slowly.  But during that time [the lockdowns and pandemic], I did consider stopping. I started with real estate agent training, but stopped that this year.  It was not working for my heart, and also my mental health.”

Featured image- IKARÓS