Cut: A Collaborative Dance Short Film
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought along with itself numerous other crises. Financial downfall, inequality in health care and education and a new scourge of mental illness and heightened anxiety. It is difficult enough to put into words how this pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, nevermind articulating its tragedies through dance. However, dancer and choreographer Vincent Mantsoe along with musician Mpho Molikeng and filmmaker Frank Pizon, have been able to reach deep into the raw and fragile emotion of the moment with their exquisite 13-minute short dance film, Cut.
Mantsoe had been due to return to South Africa from France in April 2020 for a series of shows at the Market Theatre in Newtown. But that was not to be, due to the extended hard lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Determined to somehow still reach his home country, Mantsoe devised Cut - a gripping and telling dance piece that explores;
"The experience of living with the imminent danger of infection and the derived consequences of the ongoing pandemic, such as quarantine, social distancing and self-isolation...The visual composition captures the experience of being torn between extreme poles of opposition, and of struggling to resist the emotional weight of a self that may give in to the anxiety of the situation. Cut articulates some of the many contradictory emotions in these disturbing times. These emotions pull us apart, but also makes us gravitate towards one another."
The Creative Process Gone Virtual
Cut was choreographed for camera, a rather daunting task for an artist used to devising work for the stage. The piece was filmed in Mantsoe's studio and edited at a distance by video artist, Frank Pizon. Mantsoe's movements were then crafted to multi-layered music performed by Lesetho-born musician, Mpho Molikeng. The three artists collaborated remotely and virtually throughout the creative process, exchanging thoughts, sounds and images by email - a first for all of them!
One might imagine then that a film created in isolation by three artists may be disjointed, as each wove their creative imaginations onto its bare fabric. In some ways, this is true. Cut does not feel like a synchronous piece of art, developed in utter harmony. But perhaps this is the beauty of it. At this moment where most of us are conducting our lives through screens and virtual existence, there is very little that makes sense.
Part of the anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic is the isolation, not only from other people, but from ourselves. Mantsoe captures this inner conflict in his rapid and precise movements, thrashing about and seemingly displaying an intense internal argument. Coupled with Pizon’s clever editing, Mantsoe becomes a figure trapped within his own space. The frame almost haunts him, as he retreats around the room in search of an escape. Growing wearier with each step as the dance wears on, with Molikeng’s music fading away into the background, he breathes deeper and deeper. This fight for breath is deeply symbolic, invoking a primal fear indicative of this moment - to be infected with the virus, to fight it alone and to not have the ability to breathe.
Even after Mantsoe has taken his last steps out of the frame, this sound sticks with you. Even at its relatively short length, Cut manages to leave this lingering impression. Is it the raw humanity in Mantsoe's movements, his physical articulation of something words cannot express or something much more intrinsic? You'll have to watch the film yourself to find out!
When Is It?
Thursday, 18 June 2020 - Thursday, 02 July 2020.
Where Is It?
How Much Is It?
The film is free to stream.
For More Information
Visit The Market Theatre website for more information.