BY ABONGILE SIPONDO, 28 JUNE 2012-It's not only South Africans who pride themselves as descendants of the San, often described as the most ancient culture in the world. "We all have this connection with the San as a source of humankind," believes Philippe Pelen
Baldini from Reunion, who directs !Aïa, a show that transcends narration in a musical, theatrical and choreographic exploration of identity, mobility, relationships and nature.
"Nature lives inside of us and we need to reconnect with our own unlimited nature. The most important point of the show is to feel the connection with this common source," said Baldini.
A collaboration between artists from South Africa and Théâtre Taliipot in Reunion, the production retains a focus on primordial forces that drive body and dance. In preparation, the creators spent time with traditional healers, artists and scientists in a cave at the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg. However, Baldini quickly warned, the show is about a contemporary connection between nature and humans and not about how the San used to live. "We express it in a modern way. In our show, we have contemporary music but we also have traditional music.
I like the criss-crossing of different music."
!Aïa has previously showed in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, where it was well received. "It attracts people from all backgrounds as it has a diverse array of things," said Phil Thurston, the show's sound designer.
"As soon as they come to the show they get involved."
The producers believe many audience members will leave the show "feeling like children". "It strips you of your identity as a lawyer, doctor, anything. You leave the show having gone back to being a child," said Thurston.
"We experience a state of being," continued Baldini. "There is a great deal of emotion involved. It is so much more than just a performance; it's also a ritual, a journey to get to one's essence."