By Chelsea Haith
Nomcebisi Moyikwa struts up and down the rehearsal room, counting loudly as her steps measure her quick movement across the room. “Two, three, FOUR!” she shouts, clapping as the dancers jump on her command, the pressure mounting as the participants prepare for their next dance-march protest through the streets of Grahamstown.
As the director and founder of ‘The Gatherings/Intlangano’, Moyikwa’s projects are about integrating Grahamstown East and Grahamstown West through a community exchange programme. Dancers from different backgrounds gather under her direction to learn and teach new dances from different cultures that are then incorporated into a kind of physical theatre which acts as protest. The dances include isipantsula and gumboot dancing.
“For me the idea was to merge the two worlds together to make something of it,” she said, speaking about the interactions between the dancers. Moyikwa’s eyes sparkle and her actions are animated as she discusses the project, opening her palms wide when explaining the origin of the project as though to catch the words that spill out in her enthusiasm.
The idea came to Moyikwa while working with The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The programme she interned with teaches people living in rural communities to make and perform theatre. “I saw that people can learn important life skills from theatre and the discipline,” she says.
Having worked in and studied theatre since 2008, Nomcebisi is invested in the process of making productions. “The audience get a very small part of the show because they only see the final product, and that became very dissatisfying to me,” she says, waving her hand as though to ward off the memories of past shows. “So I became interested in the process,” she continues, gesturing at the dancers, “and in how they interpret the production and the movement.”
With her bright red lipstick and matching faux-leather jacket over a flowery blue jumpsuit, Moyikwa shines like the early morning. Despite this fresh-faced visage, she’s a veteran of the stage, currently working as a performer-facilitator for First Physical Theatre Company, earning her chops in the Rhodes Drama Department and completing her Honours in Applied Theatre in 2012.
Her work appeared at the 2014 Detours festival as well the JIPCA Live Arts Festival and Jomba Festival. This year her show Inqindi will be on the Fringe circuit of the National Arts Festival.
Her work varies from the deeply personal to the socially relevant, including a choreographed tribute upon her aunt’s death and a response to the use of sexual violence on South African stages, to the interrogation of masculinity through dance in the Intlangano project.
“I want to build dialogues,” she says, indicating the diverse group of men practicing nearby. She incorporates discussions between the participants in her development process and this has led to the development of the current theme, ‘the art of breathing’. “Our main objective is to create a society where people can move together, move through dance, or move through a movement for transformation.”