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Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro returns to Johannesburg

Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro returns to Johannesburg for a ten-day season at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre from 5 September until 15 September 2019. Accompanied by the Soweto Gospel Choir, this season forms part of Vuyani Dance Theatre’s twentieth-anniversary celebrations.

Vuyani Dance Theatre Cion Requiem Ravel's Bolero Gregory Maqoma
PHOTO Rosetta Msimango

With his contemporary African dance company, Gregory Maqoma shares an innovative, visually stunning, full-length work that brings literature to life. For this gala season at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre, the production will see 20 dancers and 16 musicians on stage in an amplified production. In Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro, Maqoma draws inspiration from creations by two artists: the character Toloki in South African author Zakes Mda’s novel Cion, and music from French composer Maurice Ravel’s Boléro.
     In a review of Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro at the Festival de Marseille, Helmut Vogt writes, ‘The dance of the Vuyani Dance Theatre is powerful and generous. The sets offer pulsations like cries in a ceaseless march, on the spot, which seems to cross Africa. This march is the home port of the show, the place where we come back, like the mythical notes of Ravel. Exile and colonisation present themselves to us in the dance gestures, like two combatants duelling. The excellent dancers, from different generations and different bodies, form a homogeneity which often appears to support hip-hop colour solos where the body is jerky, riddled with stories. The steps are back or front offering hip agility bluffing.
     ‘The allegories are numerous in this show with very classic form. Slavery, dictatorship, the oppression of Africans, everything is symbolised by a voracious dance that sometimes lets the upper body move on supports screwed to the ground. The torsos extended by the arms undulate in a physical reference to the theme of the Boléro.’

Vuyani Dance Theatre Cion Requiem Ravel's Bolero Gregory Maqoma
PHOTO John Hogg

The music in Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro is delivered in stirring fashion by an isicathamiya troupe and the percussive voices of Vuyani dancers, under the musical direction of Xolisile Bongwana and Nhlanhla Mahlangu. Maqoma’s use of Ravel’s Boléro serves as a requiem to the departed souls while offering an opportunity to heal.
     ‘The world has changed from what we imagined it to be; we are all victims clouded by fear. This work stands against that dark cloud and brings us light and hope that humanity still exists, even in our darkest times,’ says Maqoma, founder and executive artistic director of Vuyani Dance Theatre
     ‘Death is a universal rite of passage, and the universe of greed, power and religion has led us to be professional mourners who transform the horror of death and the pain of mourning into a narrative without feeling for life,’ he adds.
     After gracing the stages of numerous European festivals, Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro returns to Johannesburg audiences for a ten-day season. This is a rousing dance theatre work that stands for hope against the darkness.

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