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Plasticization

CN D - Centre national de la danse 2005 - Director : Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Choreographer(s) : Xaba, Nelisiwe (South Africa)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse , CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Plasticization

CN D - Centre national de la danse 2005 - Director : Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Choreographer(s) : Xaba, Nelisiwe (South Africa)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse , CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

Plasticization

Presented in response to the invitation from Faustin Linyekula as part of the carte blanche he was given in June 2005 at the Centre national de la danse, “Plasticization” is Nelisiwe Xaba's fifth solo but the first presented in Europe: the young South African choreographer is primarily known there as the muse of Robyn Orlin. Alongside the designer Carlo Gibson – the Johannesburg fashion designer known as Strangelove – she creates a piece as relevant to the theatre of objects as to performance and the visual arts.

In “Plasticization”, N. Xaba appears from nowhere at the back of the theatre and saunters among the spectators wearing a kind of made-to-measure leotard made from a multi-coloured plastic shopping bag, while an “integral” hood with long ears completes the outfit by masking her face. When she reaches the stage, she changes to the rhythm of the music of the “Polovtsian Dances”, a self-assured bunny-girl who becomes a theatrical shopping bag walking around the stage. Thus packaged, she subtly summons several "characters", by the simple manipulation of a pointe shoe, a heeled shoe, a rubber boot and a worn out trainer, which she presents humorously to the “hits” of the classical repertoire.

Unclassifiable, like a lot of the work of N. Xaba, who refuses to be constrained by any kind of labels, “Plasticization” deals with our relationship to the political, erotic and sociological dimensions of the contemporary body. Our relationship with the materials of “plastic” performances is highlighted here metaphorically. Concerning the condom – which has already inspired Robyn Orlin to create her piece “We must eat our suckers with the wrappers on” in 2001 – Nelisiwe Xaba notes that it is as much a barrier against the AIDS epidemic devastating South Africa as an additional “screen” between human beings, just like the use of the gloves, or the wipes which she inserts between her mouth and those of the spectators chosen for the distribution of kisses which opens the piece. All these protections are part of a global tendency towards sanitization and individualism.

The consumerist nature of a material which is flooding the world market without nature being able to assimilate it also appears implicitly. Healthy or degenerate, Xaba refrains from making a decision but shows great creativity in providing an overview of the infinite “plastic" possibilities this material allows. 

Often associated with the piece “They Look At Me And That's All They Think”, “Plasticization” has been successful in France and was performed at the Centre chorégraphique national de Caen in 2006, at the Centre de développement chorégraphique (CDC) in Toulouse, at the Carré in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles and at the Séchoir in Saint-Leu de La Réunion in 2007, as well as at the Hivernales in Avignon in 2010. In Belgium, the Kaaitheater (Brussels) welcomed this work in 2008.

The collaboration of N. Xaba with the designer Strangelove continued with the works “They Look At Me And That's All They Think” (2006), “Black! … White?” (2009), “Scars and cigarettes” and “Uncles and angels” (2013).

Programme extracts 

“Xaba sees her work as a way of exposing the clichéd voyeuristic Western view of black South and criticises growing capitalist and commercial pressure in her own country. In “Plasticization”, she wears plastic bags cut into pieces and is almost hidden from view. Plastic is a symbol of over-consumption as well as sterility and hygiene. Plastic covers and protects but also seals off. How do you create intimacy using this unnatural material? And does direct physical contact still have any meaning?”

Source: website of the  Kaaitheater, Brussels
 

“In “Plasticization”, Nelisiwe Xaba – at least we assume it's her, since we will never see her face – emerges covered with a clumsy mask somehow reminiscent of African masks. This unlikely body: four feet, no head, donkey's ears… emerges from among the spectators and launches into a small ceremony of a particular kind of kisses… With one black leg, one red, wearing a high-heeled shoe and a ballet pointe shoe respectively, she makes her way unsteadily around the stage and shows us modern hygiene-related objects which will obviously bring a wry smile to the faces of anyone living in a country of glaring poverty, where AIDS is a national plague… seventeen breath-taking minutes.”

Source: “Le mot d’Emmanuel Serafini”, Centre de développement chorégraphique Les Hivernales programme, 14-15 February 2010.

“To the large canon of dance in Africa, Nelisiwe Xaba brings an acid and feminine vision of the status of the black body and proves herself a worthy successor to Robyn Orlin. “Plasticization” evokes a society that has become materialist and plastic. In this daily, unbridled search for the sanitised, the sterilized, the increasingly safe, plastic has become a hero. (...) These two solos cast a critical and nevertheless amused look on our society and put many stereotypes into perspective.”

Source: Centre de développement chorégraphique Les Hivernales programme, 14-15 February 2010.

Press reviews 

“In her solo “Plasticization”, Nelisiwe Xaba cuts a hood and a skirt from those famous plastic bags favoured by the Parisian shop Tati Barbès, and ends up hiding inside them! A welcome criticism of a sanitised world and a consumer society.”

Philippe Noisette, Les Inrockuptibles, 30 January 2007 (n°583)

“The solo is an act of speech, an argumentation aimed at convincing us of the devastating effect of a sanitised way of life. At the beginning of the show, the dancer, in her new kind of tutu, uses a wipe and kisses several spectators while using the wipe as a screen. In this uncomfortable, intimate relationship, in the act of bringing together dancer and audience, she confirms the distance between us in our modern societies.”

Fatima Miloudi, website "les trois coups", 14 March 2010

Updating: February 2014

Xaba, Nelisiwe

Born and raised in Dube, Soweto, Nelisiwe Xaba began her vibrant professional dance career of more than 20 years in the early 90's when she received a scholarship to study dance at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation.  In 1996 she was awarded a scholarship to study dance at the prestigious Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London where she studied various forms ballet and contemporary dance techniques under the artistic direction of Ross McKim. Returning to South Africa in 1997, Xaba joined the Pact Dance Company and later launched a freelance dance career in which she worked with various esteemed choreographers, including Robyn Orlin. She is also a distinguished teacher having taught in Soweto, Johannesburg and Bamako, Mali.

Xaba's  solo career has entailed working in various multi-media projects and collaborating with visual artists, fashion designers, theater and television directors, poets and musicians.  Xaba's seminal works Plasticization and They Look At Me & That's All They Think have toured various parts of the world for the several years. The latter piece, inspired by the Hottentot Venus (Sarah Bartmann) saw Xaba collaborate with fashion designer Carlo Gibson of Strangelove.

In 2008, Xaba collaborated with Haitian dancer and choreographer Kettly Noel to create a duet titled Correspondances – a satirical look into the politics of women to women relationships, which toured various continents in South and North America, Europe and Africa.

In 2009 Xaba premiered her piece Black!...White?, produced by the Centre  de Developpment Choregraphique  ( CDC),  which toured  throughout France.  In the same year Xaba produced The Venus, a combination of her solo pieces, the earlier work They Look At Me  with Sakhozi says non to the Venus (directed by Toni Morkel), originally commissioned by the Musee du Quai Branly.  Xaba's work is informed largely by her feminist stance on racial politics which challenges stereotypes of the black female body and mainstream cultural notions of gender.

In 2011 Xaba became one of artists represented by the Goodman Gallery South Africa which represents a pool of leading contemporary artists on the African continent. In her recent work Uncle and Angels Xaba collaborated with film-maker Mocke J van Veuren to produce an interactive dance and video performance piece which questions notion of  chastity, virginity testing, purity, and tradition, while at the same time casting a wry glance at the power relations encoded within corporeal interaction through performance and projection.

Since its premiere at the 2012  Dance Umbrella Uncles & Angels has toured Germany, France, and Austria and is being restaged for Dance Umbrella in September 2013 (whose poster and programme uses an image of Xaba in this work) . Xaba is currently working on a new collaborative piece Scars & Cigarettes ( to accompany Uncle & Angels 2013)  in which she continues to probe the socialization of men and women into performing specific gender roles in society.  This time the focus is on the different rites of passage, or rituals such as male circumcision, performed by men.

Also in 2013 Xaba was selected to present The Venus in Venice at the South African Pavilion at the 55th la Biennale di Venenzia (Venice Biennale) presented from June 1 to 24 November 24.
 

She was awarded several prizes at the Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de l’Afrique et de l’Océan Indien (African and Indian Ocean International choreographic encounters) - Danse l'Afrique Danse (organised in Paris, Carthage and Bamako by the Institut français).

Source: http://theartchive.co.za/

Teaching:

1995 Soweto Dance Theatre Company and Soweto Dance Theatre Youth

More Information:

https://www.academia.edu/2898707/Speaking_with_Nelisiwe_Xaba
Updated: February 2014

Centre national de la danse, Réalisation

Since 2001, the National Center for Dance (CND) has been making recordings of its shows and educational programming and has created resources from these filmed performances (interviews, danced conferences, meetings with artists, demonstrations, major lessons, symposia specialized, thematic arrangements, etc.).

Plasticization

Choreography : Nelisiwe Xaba

Interpretation : Nelisiwe Xaba

Additionnal music : "Chorus of slave the girls", A. Borodin ; "Jesus, Joy of Man's desiring", J.-S. Bach ; "Anvil Chorus", G. Verdi ; "Lacrimosa (Requiem)", W.-A. Mozart

Costumes : Strangelove

Duration : 20 minutes

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