Photo credt John Hogg

This is it. Gregory Maqoma’s back is to the audience. If you’re going to dance with your back to the audience, you’re going to reveal something when you turn around. If you are going to dance history, you are going to lose something in translation. This could be a protest against language, but it is not. It is a collaboration of dance and language. It is an experiment in conserving language. If you’re lost in your language, you’re lost in identity. I got lost in this show Exit/Exist last night. It was a compelling expression of an unknown history into a physical dance.


“When you step into that movement you’re stepping into a part of yourself that is missing.” Maqoma says after the performance. Exit/Exist is a modern dance that tells the history of the renowed Xhosa chief Maqoma. What is happening is he isn’t dancing a history so much as collaborating with his ancestor’s stories to tell a new story. The whole thing from start to finish is an enthralling collaboration of ideas, things, movements, times, histories, and people.


Exit/Exist was created by choreographer and director Gregory Maqoma to tell the story of chief Maqoma of the Xhosa nation. Gregory Maqoma is himself a direct decedent of chief Maqoma. Sometimes you only know enough to know that you don’t know. When it comes to dance I know that I don’t know, but I can feel it. Even more so I know that my ability to place any struggle of the Xhosa (a people native to South Africa whose notables include Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu) into context is mostly futile. In this way I think dance breaks through. Even if I utterly fail, I can try to imagine Chief Maqoma’s traditions. I can watch them being pulled into the complexity of the contemporary world with dance. But actually, Maqoma’s world was as equally complex as our contemporary world, like this dance itself.


Gregoy Maqoma and the Vuyani dance theater with their show Exit/Exist are in Seattle till the 27th then in early November they take the show to Brooklyn then Los Angeles. The music for this show is done live by the South African vocal group Complete. You should check these amazing artists out and go see this performance, or any live performance as soon as possible because sometimes, like it was last night, performers are on.

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