← Back to Performance Archive Index

Music Dance 021

TAAC, Observatory
With the visit of Manuella Tessi, mover from Amsterdam, a five-week music-dance project was launched. Around 15 local musicians and dancers worked together to excavate the hidden contents in collaborations based on methods of artistic improvisation.

This work has been part of what I would call "my auxiliary training", augmenting the tome of techniques, approaches, philosophies of body, body intelligence, post-dramatic theatre, cathartic excavations of the political psyche as deposited in body-movement and also voice. Amongst my most recent teachers in these fields were performers from Pan-Theatre in France and Ruth Zapora in the USA. Locally this work is practiced with a supreme sense of physical honesty by Thalia Laric and Kristina Johnstone.

The approach is towards the unknown. Your own entry into the space, whether dancer or musician, is determined by non-formulaic factors. You cannot tell how to enter the space until you do enter it. Once in the space either alone or with other musicians or dancers, your antennae are superbly discriminating, heightened. Your senses are enhanced. You look and do not look but see what is and what is not. Your listening is heightened. You hear silences in between drum rolls and crackling hard plastics and sounds, corrupted piano strings, clarinet and violin, that could at best be described as variations of delinquent-ness. On the edges of anarchy, you are called in ways that cross a shamanism. Your movements could overcome your being and body or it could be the gentlest and most delicate fibrillation of a hidden muscle in the subtleties of your physique. This is performance on the edge. And, when your senses wane you simply exit the stage.

In my case, after decades of this practice, I did expect to meet upheavals as residues of my psycho-political experience. The week of this performance was also the week that drove SA to the edge. It so happened that the grueling altercations between the SA public and the ANC NEC surrounded the potential resigning/impeachment/motion of no confidence of the, then current president Jacob Zuma. By Friday 16th February, the day of my performance, Zuma resigned and Ramaphosa was to be our new president.

The performance of Music Dance 021: The trauma of 9 years of what my body there and then discovered, as political abuse, was revealed to me in the performance with one musician on clarinet Visser Liebenberg. I felt the powers of horror, the abject of philosopher and avant-gardist Julia Kristeva in my limbs and emotions. Disgust, repugnance, nausea, rage in my immediate perceptions, sensations, drives and emotions was embodied as a body-chapter of my larger autobiography. This man and his political party fucked with my country and my life for close on a decade. It was only on the stage of the unknown that I felt, and allowed my body to experience the full implications of my complicity and passivity, helplessness and anxiety, my entanglement and chronic foreboding of cataclysm in the face of a slow and gradual, then accelerating crumbling of every structure, fiber, value and principle that my country would need to survive.

One spectator's comment: "You pulled your body through the eye of the South African needle," sufficed.

On Saturday morning, when I looked at the front page of Die Burger to see the image of the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as new president, my body convulsed. I wept unstoppably. Hyperventilating, my body quivered and shivered. For a whole day I had the cold shivers of a sudden influenza. I embodied it like an animal in shock. Then I slept for 16 hours.

For a week afterwards I felt excarnated. My balance was often lost, I had strange frontal headaches and a stiff neck, needed sleep at any hour of the day, muscle pains came and left again and I avoided sociality. Gradually I recovered. My need to listen to the radio and the most recent news, receded. My body felt agile and able after a week.

A renewed vitality set in. I came across a publication: Franz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics written in 2017. A writing mentor spoke about research on Masculinities, especially that of the black male. Increasingly I felt the time for political correctness has finally passed. I felt the uselessness of internalized white guilt and internalized black victimhood and their toxic deposits in the psyche of every South African, obliterating the pressing truth of profound renewal.

Photos: Lindsey Appolis

I was changing and my world with/in me.