“The San people are the inspiration for this piece. The San are the aboriginal inhabitants, the hunter-gatherers of Southern African plains, at one time known as Bushmen – living people of the Kalahari desert. The dance performance is a continuation of their journeys and an extension of their spirit and taps into the oppression to which they were subjected for centuries, their slow but consistent expulsion from the land being taken over by farmers and miners, until they were confined to the desert. The San have been silenced, hounded, tortured, and endured the terrors of genocide. Reinventing the journey of the San, the piece questions our capacity to adapt to the passing of time and to others.
The 12th century Persian poet, Mawlana Jalal Ad-din Balkhi Rumi, originally born in Afghanistan, inspired the musical score, “La passion de Rumi” (The passion of Rumi), played on the kamanech (violin), the barbat (short-necked lute), the târ (long-necked lute) and the daf (drum). Shahram Nazeri, popular Iranian singer and master of traditional Persian and Sufi music, is accompanied by his father, Hafez Nazeri playing Persian Lute. One does not need to understand the words in order to appreciate the emotion, the invitation to come on a journey and a certain mystical celebration that they manage to transmit to us. Dating back from 11st century, traditional Persian music bears the influence of musical tradition along the Silk Road (Turkey, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Senegal, Mali), and it is quite conceivable that Persian music at some point connected with the musical culture of the San.
The music is a key factor in the choreography, which translates sensitively the poetry and the spatial dimensions, through the depth of the dancing bodies. During their performance, the dancers therefore paid careful attention to the simplicity and the precision of the rhythm, and responded to the melancholy of the music. These five dancers, coming from different cultures, were encouraged to mix, to work on the quality of their listening and their relationship with each other.
The piece is built on several combinations during which each dancer, in constant contact with the others, expresses his inner journey. Each one of these journeys seems to bring the dancers to the end of their journey, before another performer takes over and travels along the same path.
Between simplicity and refinement, “San” is a reflection on tolerance, adapting to the passage of time and being open to the unknown.”
"While creating the piece, my initial task with these dancers from different cultures was to encourage them to mix, to work on the quality of their relationship and to listen to each other. Their maturity, their knowledge and their availability while creating this piece allowed us to choreograph it as quickly and easily as possible, thanks to their discussions with each other.
I built this piece around several combinations, in which the dancers explore their own story, their own discoveries. These different journeys are accompanied by the others, one by one, right to the end, before another dancer takes over.
These inner journeys were constructed in the constant presence of a Persian composition by the musician Sharham Nazeri, encouraging travel and a certain mystical celebration. The dancers paid careful attention to the precision and simplicity of the rhythm; their bodies live and vibrate to the melancholy of the music. This relation between simplicity and refinement was the guiding force of my choreographic approach to ‘San’”.
Source: Vincent Mantsoe, performance notes for “San”, 2010-2011
Updating: February 2014