Review: Vincent Mantsoe NKU/Skwatta, at the Firehall until Feb. 14

Read the programme when you arrive. That will help set the stage and the mood for the dance pieces you see.

I loved the musical soundtrack. It covered a large number of styles and time periods, most of which I am not personally conversant with. Most of it was not traditional African music. I read that “the cultural influences of African, Aboriginal Australian, Asian, contemporary, and ballet traditions are important influences on Mantsoe’s work” (Wikipedia) and that comes across in both his movements and the musical selections. I love that Mantsoe is erudite and confident enough to draw from a host of global inspirations.

In NKU, the stage is set with thin ropes strung in a splayed pattern across the stage. The ropes conveyed strong rays of sunlight, but also suggested bondage and oppression and restriction.

In Skwatta, Mantsoe first appears wrapped in a white cloak, a genderless, ageless figure with face obscured. When researching what “Skwatta”  meant, I came across the South African hiphop group Skwatta Kamp–take a look at that group too.

Mantsoe is visually compelling in terms of movement, artistry, and general presence. The time literally flies when watching him. I’m trying to let go of the continual “What does that mean?” dialogue in my head, and the somewhat fruitless quest for narrative, so as to fully appreciate the moment, and I recommend doing that if you can.

Mantsoe briefly and graciously introduced himself at the end of the night. I wish I could hear him in the Q&A session that he is doing Thursday night (Feb. 12). Mantsoe has a compelling life story and a lot to say.

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