Bold, powerful choreography is characteristic of Tavaziva’s work. Their fusion of contemporary and African movement creates a dynamic and highly technical style, and the dancers – the majority of whom are new to the company – execute it here with attack and precision. In Izindava, the latest creation from artistic director Bawren Tavaziva, however, there seems a greater sense of refinement and sensitivity behind that power.
As with much of the company’s work, Izindava draws upon Tavaziva’s experience of growing up in Zimbabwe and upon African history and culture. While the precise intention behind the work lacks clarity, the emotions that surface through Tavaziva’s choreography and visual imagery are poignant.
Ben Voorhaar and Sabrina Zyla’s lizard-like costume designs are key to this. Sporadically, a dancer will emerge into the low-light with creeping, swaying movements, a black, floor-sweeping tail trailing from their shoulders. These sinister beasts become a recurring image that seem to physicalise the work’s underlying tone of fear and oppression. It’s reiterated in the dancers’ fast-paced, relentless movements and, more explicitly, in the voiceovers that intersperse Tavaziva’s atmospheric soundtrack.
The voiceovers speak of conflict and terrorism, yet there’s also a sense of confusion; an expression of how incomprehensible these acts of violence, from one human to another, are. It’s a personal and historical reflection on post-colonial Africa, but the words are universally relevant.
The strength of Izindava lies in this combination of speech, imagery and the dancer’s powerful, articulate movement. In fact, it’s refreshing to see choreography derived from such a rich and varied movement language – for the amount of content, the movement never feels repetitive or overworked.
Yet there’s also a vulnerability to the dancers’ performance and it’s this that adds depth to the work. The sensitivity within their movement reflects the heartfelt words of the voiceovers and lends a sense of strength and community to the closing scenes.
The narrative of this work may not be crystal clear, but it’s led by feeling and emotion, and that intention shines through. Ultimately, it’s a joy to watch a company in which strength and technique can be combined with sensitive and thought-provoking content – especially when that content is so relevant to our world today.
Izindava was at Sadler’s Wells until October 13th, and is touring the UK until November 23rd. For more details, click here.