Fascinating, creative, refreshing: LoveZero

Underground Dance Theatre is well known for creating high-quality, experimental and stimulating dance works. They do like to throw some intriguing and sometimes wacky stuff our way. It’s no different with LoveZero, their latest offering to the South African contemporary dance landscape.

It’s a double bill. Cipher gives us a rumination on numeration, and Mode presents an upturned historical perspective on dance.

“LoveZero is… falling in love with a Rubik’s cube… hopscotch on a Mondrian…” the programme note states.

Part One: Cipher, choreographed by Cilna Katzke and Kristina Johnstone:

Logic & love – mutually exclusive. Follow the rules and follow the steps. The three austerely dressed dancers jog in steadily rhythmic unison. Without skipping a beat they shift places as they turn corners, one overtakes to be the leader. Logical spacing.

On the floor now. Turning in spirals. A soft foot tap turns them back again. Straight line! They point and reach with all their might but they are bound to the ground. This dance is sensual and reveals how the trappings of logical, expected behaviour, distort a body, make it feel illogical in its longing.

Cipher is reminiscent of Yvonne Rainer’s pedestrian movement and minimalist style. Her ‘No Manifesto’ declared “No to spectacle. No to virtuosity. No to moving and being moved.” (amongst more)… But acting within this framework, Cipher manages to break these rules too. The performers have a bit of flirtatious fun during a scene danced to “Rum and Coca Cola”. They start with an understated shimmy, and using accumulation get increasingly sassy: a cheeky leg flick, a bolder shimmy shake, and a kiss blown. They’ve found their self-expression.

Part Two: Mode, choreographed by Steven van Wyk and Thalia Laric:

Mode takes a curious look at why we dance socially. Social dances throughout history have people partnered up and moving about without the aim of going somewhere. In essence, dance is an absurd thing to do. And Mode shows this up with its deconstruction and then amalgamation of various dance forms.

The dancers use their bodies for percussion and clap complex rhythms alongside the sensational soprano Robin Botha (Fleur du Cap winner). From the medieval carol, folk dance, renaissance and court dancing, to ballroom, a waltz, the tango and salsa, Mode incorporates these with a light touch of modern, contemporary and African dance too. This stimulating choreography skilfully keeps stylistic integrity with each form… to a point… and playfully suggests how interchangeable dance forms can be in their essence.

Why dance is special to me is that it doesn’t come with any answers. It’s up to me to respond to the imagery invoked and decide what meaning the work holds. Sometimes it’s emotionally moving, sometimes it’s intellectualised, sometimes it visually stimulates new perspectives on a variety of subjects.

LoveZero falls into the latter two. Cipher’s trio is well executed and challenges the viewer to think deeply about its imagery and metaphors. Mode too, is expertly performed and challenges us to consider the absurd in social dance but its tone of praise leaves us thinking about “why dance?”

LoveZero is fascinating and refreshing. For anyone interested in South Africa’s next generation of dance leaders should be watching Underground Dance Theatre closely as they approach creating their original stamp on SA dance.

– Sarah Roberson

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