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MIDM in Grahamstown

Under new artistic direction by Mark Hawkins, the 37-year-old Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) is currently in the process of evolving, whilst still discussing social issues through enthralling movement vocabulary and cutting edge choreography.
To touch is to feel. Whether it be merely the skin of the other person or an emotional reaction, a touch sensitises the body to its own dermis and allows a person to become aware of themselves and the feelings that this awareness carries. Sunnyboy Mandla Motau seeks to reengage the senses by making his audiences more fully conscious of the plight of human trafficking. It is a skin-tingling fact to consider that a human being can be taken from their life and dreams; packed away and sold like ordinary cargo. In a world inundated by hashtags and memes of daily atrocities it becomes comfortable to wall up in flats and houses or hide in cellphone boxes rather than to physically connect with the world. Cities are crowded with people who create cacophonous noises, smells, tastes, sights and textures. But if one takes time to listen and see they can realise that it is actually people who buzz around their overwhelmed daze. People, Motau recognises as having had hopes for a better life amongst the flickering lights.
In Man-Longing Motau choreographs the real. He is ‘trying to portray real scenes of things that are happening in this world. We went to Noord, Bree…’ Motau ruminates. The work travels to the National Arts Festival (NAF) this July as one of two pieces featuring Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM). ‘I am proud to be part of a company whose work is being shown on the Main Festival stage after having six Standard Bank Young Artists Award winners for Dance coming from MIDM and sharing a stage with this year’s winner, Luyanda Sidiya,’ says Hawkins.
MIDM has undergone significant shifts in the past year as it revamped its management team. Mark Hawkins joined MIDM in 2014. Recently appointed as the new Artistic Director, Hawkins, who has an impressive CV notched up over the past 30 years, is excited to take up the artistic helm at this exciting time. Sensitive to the history of MIDM and imperative to build on the extraordinary legacy of Sylvia Glasser, Hawkins says, ‘I look forward to focusing the artistic direction of this immensely important dance company, while at the same time looking after its historic repertoire, by actively identifying new opportunities for growth and performance possibilities locally, nationally, within the SADC region and of course internationally.
‘MIDM has always been about community and social issues,’ Nadia Viramsamy (CEO and Director of Education) states. Man-Longing traces the desires that cause people to pursue the city without any knowledge of what one will precisely do when they get there.
‘Imagine if this was your mother, your sister,’ Motau sighs. He speaks about the feeling that he was mere meat when he was clutched by a naked prostitute on Mooi Street. He had taken the cast to experience what it is like to walk the street during an early morning rehearsal. At 8am they walked past women of varying ages in either scanty clothing or standing fully naked on the street. As a male, he was a sought after object: the man who would satisfy their longing for money. The cast had to cancel the rest of their rehearsal that day. Motau stammers when he tries to find the words to articulate the sensation and simply says, ‘Once you see it and feel it, you carry it.’ In the Bag Scene of Man-Longing where the women of the cast are grabbed from large checked plastic bags with zips, a butcher holds the women as though they were empty flesh; without the self-same need of financial freedom that he uses them to obtain. Motau’s contribution to the NAF, which promises to pack a punch and shake audiences from socio-political passivity, is a macabre impression of musings on the material world.
The performers are dancing into a poem created by Motau, as he begins his pieces by writing poetry. To this text he has a mostly original composition of sounds recorded from city noises to undertone the dancer’s words; which create what he calls a ‘text-scape’. Man-Longing has shifted with the new dancers’ input bringing fresh textures to the story. It has also grown because of issues like those highlighted by #BringBackOurGirls and a renewed sense of urgency to make people more aware of the daily crises of human-trafficking. Motau seeks to connect with NAF audiences in a new dialogue around these issues. But, perhaps his greatest goal is sensitisation because he still feels that people are afraid to touch.

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