(on trying to understand a classic)
A piece by Robyn Orlin
World premiere: Johannesburg, 2000
In collaboration with Gerard Bester, Toni Morkel, Pule Molebatsi, Caroline Mofokeng, Makhaola Ndebele
Concept/choreography/costumes and direction: Robyn Orlin
Original music: Eric Leonardson
Tour manager: Michael Maxwell
Stage manager: Thabo Pulle
Administration: Damien Valette
Coproductions: The National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC), FNB/Dance Umbrella, Goethe Institute Johannesburg.
Paris Voice Showtime, 11/ 2001
by Carol Pratl
A rebel with many causes
With enigmatic and provocative titles like, "We must eat our suckers with the wrappers on" and "Daddy, I've seen this piece six times and I still don't know why they're hurting each other" - South African choreographer Robyn Orlin, has sparked more curiosity worldwide than anybody in the dance scene since Trisha Brown during the 1960s. After several hit performances in Paris in recent years, Orlin will be back in town this month with "F...(untitled)."
Her new piece explores and deconstructs the myth of Goethe's "Faust" from an African point of view, focusing on lies, illusions and that underlying falseness factor, inherent to contemporary life.
Robyn Orlin is a rebel with many causes. Her highly political performance pieces aim to be both subversive and funny. Born in Johannesburg at the height of Apartheid, she soon threw away her tutu and set off for London to study contemporary dance. On returning to South Africa in 1980, she took on a self-styled mission, working with the Soweto Dance Theater and finally creating the City Theater and Dance Group. Calling upon dancers and actors of all races and ages, Orlin has never swayed in her desire to show things as they are in South Africa... the naked truth in every sense of the expression.
Using humor, sexual innuendoes and seemingly incongruous everyday objects she explores themes dealing with intolerance, colonialism, racism and sexism. Her long titles don't necessarily directly relate to her projects, which "stokes" much of her mystique. Describing her new piece in a recent interview she said "I see the text of Faust as an interesting problem to be solved... I deconstruct the text to create new meaning for today... The devil is in all of us...".
Orlin took a break in the early 1990s and got a teaching degree in art from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995. Since then, her works have become more pluridiciplinary, going way beyond dance to include video, visual arts concepts and text...
"Dance interests me for the sole reason that it's political," Orlin said in a recent press conference. "There's not only one way to make art, or one way to move, nor is there just one African dance style. There are thousands yet to come."