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She Poems

A preview by Vicki Galloway-Place

"The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” - Charles Baudelaire

When I read the programme for the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, the performance She Poems immediately stood out to me as one to watch. Always looking for female solidarity and for women to be in the spotlight, I was intrigued by this inimitable female-based performance project. Feeling privileged to have been able to preview She Poems this past week, I can tell you it does not disappoint!

A selection of poetry provides the catalyst for seven uniquely creative responses from all over Africa in 'She Poems'.

The performance itself is made up of seven dances which take the form of a series of short films, carefully curated by choreographer Aïda Colmenero Dïaz. The project is an ongoing one, having reached 13 countries so far. Dïaz comments that the project has crossed borders, both literally and symbolically, by pushing her and her performance collaborators’ inner borders further than ever before – a fitting concept considering the 2021 festival theme. Dïaz set out with the challenge of creating new work in ways she has never worked before with JOMBA! providing the perfect platform to showcase the dancers' responses to a range of profound poems.

Dïaz touches on an interesting idea in her introduction when she says, "I would like to say to the audience, enjoy the experience of these short films, just open your heart your eyes to experience the beautiful image, experience the image, the voice, experience the sounds of the short films. Not trying to understand with head in a narrative way." This is sound advice, however, as a wordsmith and storyteller myself, knowing that each of the separate performances were a response to a carefully selected poem, I did find myself considering what those words were that evoked such powerful performances from each of these female performers.

As an audience member you are transported into the dances in unique ways that only a digital platform can provide. The considered camera angles, the raw, live settings from abandoned buildings, to fields, to open water, bustling cities, to the roof of an abandoned car. Scenes which quickly cut to take you to a different time and place, sometimes the dance is frantic and urgent and in other moments it is slow and fluid. Always, it is sharing with you something profound… which is why I so want to know what the words were that inspired them!

'Abismo' was a piece inspired by the words of Iosune de Goñi.

The sound direction enhances the individual stories: from the sounds of the city to the powerful haunting female solo singing, from heavy breathing to the cries of the female soul. Each sound amalgamated with the setting, the dance and the filming and provides the audience with a thoughtful sense of the messages behind the movement, proving that you don't actually need to know each language to understand it’s meaning. Dïaz has challenged herself and her performers in many ways. Her initial advice of being in the moment, to experience the stories stands up well. You are immediately drawn in due to the entire considerations of each individual vignette. I have always loved the fluidity that theatre performances provide us with as creatives. Theatre enables time and location to be fluid allowing ever changing methods of telling stories. Dïaz takes this further. Short sharp scenes, the use of natural lighting and dancers looking pointedly into the camera, giving us the sense that every ‘she’ is seeing into your soul. You can do nothing but be drawn into each and every moment.

She Poems has given the dance community so much already and yet I feel there is so much more to come as the project grows and develops organically over the next few years. This truly unique performance is definitely not to be missed and will be screened as part of the closing broadcast of JOMBA! tonight (Sunday, 5th September at 7pm SAST time).

Vicki reached out to us the very same night we that posted about Collab's participation in this year's JOMBA! Khuluma.

About the Author: I’m Vicki and I have worked as an international theatre director, writer and producer for over 18 years now. It was my work on a project in South Africa which changed my journey for the better and is part of the reason that I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in JOMBA! Khuluma 2021 as a dance journalist. Having directed The Children’s Monologues alongside Danny Boyle as well as numerous theatre performances in both the UK and the UAE, I am now in the final stages of publication for my first verbatim play This is She! which shares many courageous and moving stories of women from around the world. My specialty is verbatim and physical theatre, and I have always been eager to incorporate movement and dance into my work. South Africa will always hold a piece of my heart and I simply cannot wait to experience JOMBA! on the digital stage this season.


© Written by Vicki Galloway-Place for JOMBA! Khuluma and Collab Company

Edited by Lauren Noble | 2021


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