Cool like La Ribot

The Spanish-born dancer and choreographer known simply as La Ribot arrived in South Africa this week, with her full company, to present three works in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Maputo.

La Ribot’s brand of dance is radical, unpredictable and, above all, steeped in unselfconscious cool.

Her dancers work, visibly, with audience members, in constructing what they present. They are not afraid to disrobe entirely; they sit, stand and stroll. They manipulate and dance with everyday objects, giving them new uses, new meanings, constructing a kind of contemporary European ritual that is both mysterious and ambiguous.

The New Dance Festival features work by local and international choreographers, with a focus on young talent. It runs at the Dance Factory in Newtown, Arts on Main, and the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange until September 18.

In PARAdistinguidas La Ribot uses four dancers and audience members to further her occupation with human interaction.

Damning of the ordinary

But this is the theatre of alienation. Don’t expect the humorous antics of, say, Robyn Orlin or any choreographic attempt at prettifying the stage.

In Laughing Hole, a piece that takes up to eight hours to complete, La Ribot places dancers in a gallery setting where they pin suggestive slogans and words to the walls. Their response to each is damning of many of the concepts we hold dear. Don’t be afraid of the length of the piece because, in the gallery setting, the audience is free to come and go.

La Ribot’s third piece on tour is a work of video art titled ­Mariachi Number 17 that takes the audience on a journey with the dancer’s body to discover what it is that drives the dancer from space to space. Its frenetic movements through time make for a mesmerising trip.

Mariachi is accompanied by a talk given by the choreographer about how she approaches the complex practice of performance.

Click here a full interview with La Ribot.

La Ribot and company will perform PARAdistinguidas in Cape Town at Hiddingh Hall on September 9 at 9pm and on September 10 at 6.30pm. Her company will perform at the New Dance Festival in Johannesburg: on September 13 at the Dance Factory at 11am see Mariachi No. 17; On September 14 at 7.30pm, also at the Dance Factory, see PARAdistinguidas. On September 17 at 2.30pm at Goethe on Main see Laughing Hole.

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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