On a murky, grey day in Lancaster our bi-weekly professionals class, which is usually peer led, had a little bit of sunshine added to it last week when it was led, on Skype, by Phinda-Mzala in Gauteng in South Africa.
Phinda-Mzala use their artistic practice to spread health messages in disadvantaged areas of the community around HIV/Aids, substance abuse, and environmental issues, inspired by their diverse background in poetry, music, gumboots dance and theatre.
Via the power of video call, in our dance studio in Lancaster, the dance professionals learned Pantsula and Gumboot dances, as well as something of the history behind them and the associated culture …
“The whole set up was a little bit mind blowing to me,” says Emily Davies a North West professional dance artist who works across Cumbria and Lancaster, who was part of the experience:
“Having never been taught through the medium of video call, I was intrigued to how the exchange with South Africa’s Phinda-Mzala would work, when I arrived at Ludus Dance last Thursday morning. As a regular attendee of the peer led professional class at Ludus, I have enjoyed many opportunities to be taught by a range of artists and companies, practising varied styles and techniques under the contemporary dance umbrella.
However last Thursday’s cultural exchange, with the dancers from Phinda-Mzala, was something very different to the norm!
The session involved learning styles of dance traditional to South Africa, combined with discussion time where we found out about the origins of the dance styles and their place in South African culture today. Learning the sequences in both the Pantsula and Gumboot forms of dance was interesting, not just in terms of engaging in a different style of movement, but also the teaching style, and how this was perhaps affected by the technology in place.
As always, technology is never perfect, there was the odd glitch or lag in the connection that impacted the sound, but Phinda-Mzala were able to communicate the dance to us through the movement itself, so this did not matter. And, as the session continued, the use of non-verbal exchange became ever more prevalent, evidencing the power that dance has to communicate not just theme and narrative, but information across continents.
It would be great to see further examples of this being used in the dance community and beyond, crossing the boundaries of how we communicate, learn and develop our dance practice. I’m looking forward to seeing how the partnership between Ludus Dance and Phinda Mzala will progress!
Take a look at Phinda-Mazala