Review: Tavaziva Dance in Double Take at The Place

Performance: 8 March 2011
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Friday 11 March 2011

Tavaziva Dance 'Double Take' 8 March, The Place. Dancers: Kristina, Katie, Anna. Photo: Irven Lewis

Bawren Tavaziva’s most recent work – described as A story of two worlds … A story in two halves – is an exploration of the Artistic Director’s mixed identity and cultural heritage. Born and trained in Zimbabwe before continuing his professional dance career in England, Bawren has forged his own niche within the UK dance sphere through the merger of contemporary dance and the traditional Muchonogoyo dance form. Since 2004 his dance company have been exploring this fusion of styles and have developed a wide following and a reputation for creating impactive and high octane choreography.

Double Take begins with the dancers shuttling beetle-like in linear pathways before stopping at the desired spot and dropping to first plié. They are über vigilant, checking each other out and claiming their own little bit of territory. They travel downstage, switching places after a firm grasp or hand-shake. Elsewhere they fix each other with the clasp of a wrestler, not aggressive or violent but assertive.

Whilst the movement is very grounded and low-level, you can see glimpses of the dancers’ ballet training (Denzil Bailey is the company’s Guest Ballet Teacher) in the footwork and jumping phrases or quasi-arabesque holds. Throughout all however, the choreography is peppered with idiosyncratic gesture, spiky, knotty limbs and rapid shifts of weight. They fling themselves down and pick themselves up in a fleeting moment, constantly moving from the floor to the air.

The emotive impact is heightened by live vocalist Tsungai Tsikirai who sings in a native African dialect, intoning her words with sincerity and passion. She is never distant from the physical action, sometimes blessing, sometimes bewailing the dancers. Tsikirai and Anna Watkins make for a compelling duet, she pouring out her grief to her God, Watkins writhing face down at her feet. Later, Tsikirai cradles Watkins in her cloak, perhaps suggesting Bawren Tavaziva’s own turbulent spiritual journey.

A less sombre scene has Tsikirai emitting deep laughter and heavy sighing as the dancers stomp, pulse, strike, shake and slap with untempered vigour. Further on a soft orange light evokes a carninvalesque mode, and the dancing erupts with whistling, shouting, waving and shimmying hips.

A return to an instrumental refrain – as with all the work’s music, composed by Bawren Tavaziva – and the dark blue hues, give the sense of twilight descending. A dancer is lifted upon the soles of the others feet as they fall around her. She then walks deftly across a bridge of bent knees before being pushed backwards onto their outstretched legs.

Moving as one, the group approach the audience, their expressions bold but unthreatening and wearing an air of contentment. Is this final sense of peacefulness and tranquillity how Tavaziva will leave us? No, within seconds the dancers have broken out in a frenzy of stamping, shunting and wailing, ending this tour de force with a spirited punch.

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