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Gula

CN D - Centre national de la danse 1993 - Director : Mantsoe, Vincent

Choreographer(s) : Mantsoe, Vincent (South Africa)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Gula

CN D - Centre national de la danse 1993 - Director : Mantsoe, Vincent

Choreographer(s) : Mantsoe, Vincent (South Africa)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Gula

A revelation of the choreographer Vincent S. K. Mantsoe for international audiences, the piece “Gula” initially battled it out for the FNB VITA Choreography Award in South Africa before winning, in its longer version entitled “Gula Matari”, first prize at the 1ères rencontres chorégraphiques de l’Afrique et de l’Océan Indien (first Africa and Indian Ocean choreographic encounters) organised in Luanda (Angola) in 1996. The following year, this same version won Vincent S. K. Mantsoe the Conseil général de Seine-Saint-Denis' Author's Prize at the 5e rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis (fifth Seine-Saint-Denis International Choreographic Encounters) (France).

Originally performed by Sylvia Glasser's company Moving into Dance, the work draws its inspiration from Vincent Mantsoe's culture. In two parts, it narrates the mimetic relation between a man and a bird: "the title of work tells us about a small bird attracted to the flight of a larger bird. In many stories, in every culture, man has identified himself with the bird, a symbol of immateriality, occult knowledge and immortality. Mantsoe performs the solo in the first part, embodying the approach of the bird of the savannahs, its spiritual hunting and the mimetic learning process of metamorphosis. (…) The solo ends with the fusion of dance and its ethereal principle. (…) The second part reunites the dancers for the identification and the take-off. The ancestors watch over the universal soul and the bird prepares to cross the three sacred circles. Then the troop gathers to form the parts of the matari (…)” [1].

"Gula” is still part of the repertoire of Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe's company today and is frequently performed in its solo version.

[1] H. Haddad, “La danse en dix-neuf mondes et quelques recoupements”, in La Danse dans le monde: The 5e Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis 1996 – Centre international de Bagnolet pour les œuvres chorégraphiques, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris: les Belles lettres, 1997, pp. 47-48.
 

Press reviews

“In “Gula Matari”, developed from his solo “Gula”, the choreographer Vincent Mantsoe (24), also an extremely talented dancer (...) has created a work of great delicacy, danced partly to live whistles imitating birdsong. It is far from the stereotype that would like to restrict African dance to a single gesture of stamping on the ground. If the group choreography sometimes suffers from an excessive, almost military, unison, the complex solo exudes a subtle poetry where you can see the trembling of the wounded bird, its flight, and its fears. The prize is well deserved"

Source: Marie-Christine Vernay, “Les 1ères Rencontres de création chorégraphique africaine à Luanda” (“The 1st African Choreographic Encounters Luanda”), Libération, 23 November 1995 (article originally in French translated in English
 

“From its first version in Luanda in 1995, “Gula Matari” by the South-African Vincent Sekwati Koko Mantsoe proved that when a piece is good, it gains everyone's support. With a very effective soundtrack, dominated by the cries of birds, it combines three components from the outset: traditional African dance, urban dance and Western ballet. It was short and spectacular, with a solo brilliantly executed by the choreographer. The references to African rituals, which play a significant part in the work of the artist, have escaped the majority of Western observers however.”

Source: Salia Sanou, “Afrique danse contemporaine", under the direction of Dominique Frétard, Pantin: Centre national de la danse, 2008, p. 69 (text originally in French  translated in English).

Updating: September 2013

Mantsoe, Vincent

Choreographer, performer and dance teacher, Vincent Sekwati Koko Mantsoe was born in 1971 in Soweto, a Johannesburg township (South Africa), in the district of Deipkoof. Raised by his mother in a family of healers (“sangomas” in Zulu), he attended ritual healing ceremonies from a very young age, when he accompanied women during their trance (his grandmother, aunt and mother) on the drums. His personal choreographic practice was initially built on street dances influenced by the first music videos, among them those of Michael Jackson, who Mantsoe would imitate, along with his childhood friend Gregory Vuyani Maqoma. Along with other friends from the township, they created a street dance group, The Joy Dancers.

During this time, when he described himself as a “punk with a perm”, Vincent Mantsoe only just survived a serious car accident thanks to his mother's care. This “rebirth” as he calls it, made him become aware of the value of his spiritual heritage. His work would consequently become an opportunity to evoke his ancestral beliefs or the voices to which he surrenders when he dances.

With the help of a scholarship, he became a hard-working student in 1989, training at the Moving into Dance Company Mophatong (MIDM), one of the first multiracial companies in South Africa, run by Sylvia Glasser, which he then joined at the end of his studies. There he studied a wide range of techniques and types of dance, Asian and Western as well as African, in South Africa and in Australia, at the Victoria College of Arts. In 1995 he took part in the 1ère rencontres chorégraphiques de l’Afrique et de l’Océan Indien (first Africa and Indian Ocean choreographic encounters) in Luanda with the company MID, and presented the piece “Gula Matari” which won the first prize. 

He became associate artistic director of the company MIDM in 1997, and created many solos and ensemble pieces there, also collaborated with other companies in South Africa (Ballet Theatre Afrikan) as well as in the United States (Dance Theatre of Harlem), in Sweden (Skanes Dans Theatre), Israel (The Inbal Dance Company), and in Canada (Collective of Black Artists).

His choreography combines traditional African dance with contemporary, Aboriginal, Asian, Indian and Balinese influences, and embraces ballet, Tai-chi and various martial arts, to forge a personal afro fusion style. A multiple prize winner, Vincent Mantsoe has an international career, particularly in Japan, in the United States and in Canada.

The demands of his international career led him to give up his responsibilities as associate director in 2001 to become artistic consultant instead; Vincent Mantsoe then founded his own company in 2005, alongside his wife, the dancer Cécile Maubert, who he met while working with the Marseilles choreographer Michel Kelemenis in 1999. Based at Saint Pont in the Auvergne region, this is how he describes the philosophy which underpins the work of the Association Noa-Cie Vincent Mantsoe: “The spirit of dance and Ancestors are the source of the work, the free mind cannot be separated from the natural force, that ultimately create a unique way of executing different forces, which can lead to the process of transformation between the past and present”.

Despite being based in France, Vincent Mantsoe is clear about his South African identity: “I'm a South African choreographer in France, not a French choreographer” [2]. The creation of “Skwatta” during the Jomba! Festival (Durban) in 2012 testifies to his roots in contemporary South African society: indeed the work is inspired by the makeshift camps which are plentiful throughout South Africa.


Sources : V. Mantsoe ; M.- C. Vernay, “Vincent Mantsoe: “Transmettre un message social de rebellion”, Libération 2 July, 1997 ; Article in the “City Press” in August 2012

Mantsoe, Vincent

Gula

Choreography : Vincent Sekwati Koko MANTSOE

Interpretation : Vincent Sekwati Koko MANTSOE

Original music : Gabrielle ROTH

Costumes : Vincent Sekwati Koko MANTSOE

Duration : 12 minutes

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