Gregory Maqoma’s CION captivates audiences on opening night

The long-awaited opening night for Gregory Maqoma’s CION: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero was a full house affair as Joburg theatregoers ventured out after months of uncertainty and postponements due to the global pandemic.

Covid-19 protocols such as screening and social distancing in the theatre were adhered to for the safety of the patrons. From actors, singers and television personalities to socialites and journalists, the red carpet adorned with crosses buzzed.

Zakes Mda’s CION was brought to life in an African contemporary twist by Gregory Maqoma and accompanied in harmonies by the award winning Soweto Gospel Choir.

In a recorded message, Maqoma dedicated the opening night to Mulalo Mulovhedzi of Soweto Gospel Choir who passed away recently.

The Mandela stage exploded with song, dance, movement and emotion as the unique creative fusion of contemporary African dance by 20 dynamic dancers of Vuyani Dance Theatre fused with the harmonies of the 20 enchanting voices of the Grammy Award winning Soweto Gospel Choir.

It is set in a graveyard with persistent cries of people in mourning and the acapella music of Isicathamiya led by a quartet and accompanied by Soweto Gospel Choir. The creative arrangement and composition is by Nhlanhla Mahlangu.

Maqoma, the creative director of Vuyani Dance Theatre draws inspiration from the character of Toloki, the professional mourner, in South African author Zakes Mda’s novel Cion and the music from French composer Maurice Ravel’s Boléro.

The message of death and its consequences are infused through a lament to confront a universe in which the age-old tropes of greed, power and religion have resulted to loss of life not as a natural phenomenon. It’s a universal story encompassing the past and the present that champions our ability to band together to share the burden of grief.

The light-footed dancers displayed agility, fluidity and high energy. They elicited emotions associated with death as they portrayed people possessed by the spirit.

Worth a mention is Musa Motha, an amputee, who danced his way into the hearts of the audience with a crutch and impressed with his spirited performance against the able-bodied dancers.

CION will be staged at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre until 6 February 2022. 

Maqoma says his message through CION is that we need to pause for a moment and urgently think about the pain inflicted on others by the actions of others.

Limited tickets are available in line with the COVID regulations on www.joburgtheatre.com or by calling 0861 670 670.

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