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 birds 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 Mansoes parents
traditional names, Phoko and Nkwana. Many times throughout the performance,
I felt the dancers 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
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