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Firehall Arts Centre


Three Solo Works Choreographed and Performed by

Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe

A Firehall Arts Centre Dance Series Presentation

Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver BC

21 February 2001


By June Heywood

Sweat glistened over his magnificent mahogany body and splashed like molten gold onto the floor. For about 90 minutes, dancer and choreographer, Vincent Sekwati Mansoe, drew the packed audience into his world; into his Africa.

Imagine blackness before the dawn. A bird whistles. The dawn light breaks and there, alone in the vast space is Gula – the bird. As he faces a new dawn, he shakes his head, hands and shoulders; whistles and clucks. Here is the embodiment of a bird’s soul seen through the movements of a perfectly formed human body with loose-limbed arms for wings and hands that move like hummingbirds.

The second piece, Phokwane, comes from Mansoe’s parents’ traditional names, Phoko and Nkwana. Many times throughout the performance, I felt the dancer’s deep spirituality especially during this tribute and spiritual thanks to his parents who each “has their different strengths and the blessings of their ancestors”.

The dance began with a red-washed background before which Mansoe performed tai-chi-like movements to a traditional African voice that sounded like a musical instrument.

The voice sang out as if broadcasting a story from a minaret. In this piece, particularly, Mansoe made excellent use of space and time. He stretched high and low and in all directions. He used the entire stage as he leaped in the air landing on his silent feet. He rolled his supple body on the floor while emitting primitive sounds.

At one point, his diaphragm pumping like bellows, he knelt in a square of light and expressed great anguish through his movements while voices sang and the background became a vivid blue. During the final movement of this piece I felt quite uncomfortable. It was as though, inadvertently, I had come upon a man deep in his private, sacred devotions.

Barena – Chiefs, was the last and longest piece in the program. Using a ceremonial stick, a tiny stool and a filmy orange and yellow cloak and dressed in a red traditional split skirt, Mansoe used his body, props and face to stomp, twist, twirl, leap, lunge, loom; look disdainful, reverend and wild. At times, his huge, dark eyes pierced the gloom as he pointed towards distant horizons, then he beat his chest, in series of four, as with great dignity he strutted off the stage.

The opening night audience leaped to its feet after the final movement. Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe acknowledged the applause with three curtain calls and deep bows of thanks before leaving the stage, a glistening body of reverence and raw energy.

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