By Belinda Otas
Saturday/Sunday, February 17, 2008.
As you first walk into those tents at London's 02 Centre, you are embraced by the warmth and magnificent setting. It is certainly different to the good old London Particular - the fog and cold, which has graced your skin since you set out on your journey.
Inside the tents, there is anticipation in the air as folks wait for this supposedly ‘magical circus adventure from the amazing continent of Africa.’ While I was somewhat sceptical about Afrika! Afrika! based on the media hype that surrounded it.
But From the onset, the energy is exhilarating and exuberant. With each act, the energy level of its cast reaches a higher level. It never occurred to me that so much could be done with a basketball until I saw Afrika! Afrika!
Starting with an energetic dance overture, followed by various traditional dance pieces from different parts of the continent. We have the Gumboots and step dancers from South Africa and the dancers from Gabon and Tanzania.
The troupe is amazingly talented and can form human pyramids with their styles. It reminded me of my childhood days back in Nigeria when the Atilogu dancers from the East had me on my toes trying to do what they were doing.
Body Bizarrerie,as his act suggest, is the most befitting name for Huit Huit, a male body contortionist, who comes on stage like a spider and can get his body to fit through a tennis racket. Finally, the ingenuity of the tennis racket’s mission is accomplished on stage. He can even do push up in the position of a spider. There ought to be a "do not try this at home" sign hanging on the stage.
Afrika! Afrika! also has some elements from the West, with the Monocycle and basketball virtuosi from America; they pumped their way through Mase’s "Breathe, Step Shake" - a reflection of how Africa has gladly embraced the Hip-Hop culture over the years.
The synchronisation of the acrobatic pole performers from Tanzania and South Africa will forever lingers in my memory, for their precision and ability to climb on frail poles, yet with such vigour. It was racy and entertaining.
The music is enchanting and the live band, a delight to watch and listen to. The traditional African songs are relaxing at different stage, providing a nice contrast between the high and mid-tempo songs. While the African drums bring a powerful rhythm, and without a doubt, an enchanting charm to the mix, which is incompareable to no other dance pieces.
The highlight for the night was from Lunga, a female body contortionist from South Africa. In addition, Ntombifuthi Pamella Mhlongo dazzled the audience with her voice and costume, made from material showcasing the map of each
country of Africa.
Lunga’s performance was a combination of the bizarre and talent, fused together, as she commanded her body movements with such fluidity against the backdrop of Mhlongo’s sultry voice. She left the audience gasping for more.
The finale with the entire troupe of Afrika! Afrika! had
the crowd dancing with them. While this's surely a memorable night, I'm forced to question the relevance of the musical overture after the interval break.
And then I was hooked! I joined in the dancing and merriment. This is the Africa which western media never show or tell you about. Afrika! Afrika! is truly magical, electrifying, enthralling, colourful and without a doubt, entertaining.
Afrika! Afrika! is currently showing at The Tented Places at The O2 and booking until Spring 2008.
Tel: 0844 847 1717
For more information visit: www.afrika-afrika.com
Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's theatre editor. She can be reached at email@example.com
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