Watching the last performance Down to Earth at the Dance Umbrella festival in Johannesburg in February was an experience of introspection. I then caught up with Kieron Jina, who conceptualised the piece with Mark Gabriel in 2013, to find out how he views ‘dance’.
Down to Earth was built around the thought of alienation which was unpacked by using objects to portray the different ways in which we are objectified. The piece is a celebration of its creators differences and becomes a conversation about the evolution of mankind.
Down to Earth is not your conventional dance piece. Some of the ideas that come from the piece are that of ‘nakedness’ and parading ourselves and what we possess. By looking at the Aboriginal people and the Masai, he feels that the intrinsic memory of those dance forms should not be hidden by the cosmopolitan world that we live in, but rather that this modern world be used as a platform to showcase that art.
Kieron has worked some of these forms into Down to Earth. Street culture and other indigenous dances don’t fall into the category of ‘classical dance’ because they have not been documented, but still they thrive and live on.
His experience in Vienna, when working with dancers from around the globe taught him the diversity of dance practices and multiplicity of forms in which it can be exercised. He believes in being “proud of how your body moves”, in cultivating an archive which dancers on this continent can learn from and that no dancer is restricted to a euro-centric manner of dance. International audiences are interested in “Africa in its rawest from”.
There are so many different ways of expression, and taking the less popular route is when you truly grow your craft. The youth are being cultured and taught about the diversity of dance through live performances. Festivals are the best places to find these forms, there are workshops offered at these festivals. He believes that challenging young dancers and allowing them to express themselves is the only way to grow THEIR form of dance.
A dancer must “find the recipe for yourself, devising your own signature, remember, there is no right way or wrong way. That is the beauty of it. Find the true essence of what your body wants to do, rather than what people tell you what to do”.