“… In Petra, a multimedia dance work, choreographed by PJ Sabbagha, digital technologies are integrated with live performance to explore one of the darkest issues at the heart of South African society. Through a series of beautiful but tortuous duets, the work starkly confronts the way HIV/AIDS has invaded all our relationships: from the intimate and personal to the public and societal. Nathaniel Stern, new media artist, and tireless blogger of the media art scene in Johannesburg, has created a hauntingly poetic digital backdrop—a combination of sombre, abstract textures and live video feed which enacts a disjointed dialogue with the dancers. Reminiscent in its brooding shadowy forms of Kentridge’s parade of coal black despair, Stern’s work is a new media expression of South Africa’s new sorrow. …” — Lizzie Muller, RealTime Magazine
“… Not lacking in gravity is PJ Sabbagha’s dance work Petra, which examines relationships and how HIV/Aids has politicised intimacy in a way that is akin to military conscription. A Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner for dance, Sabbagha is recognised for his innovation in terms of presenting dance as a complete theatre experience — lights, design, sound, drama and movement are integrated. He does not disappoint on this level in Petra, a somewhat rough diamond otherwise….
” … The visuals are ruled by Sabbagha’s collaboration with video artist Nathaniel Stern. The result is an aesthetic reminiscent of William Kentridge’s animations. At times, a slow-moving, abstracted texture is projected on the backdrop, contrasting the skittish and emotive dance gestures of the dancers upfront — similar to the way Kentridge’s erase-and-shoot method creates snail trails around his figures. At other times, the dancers’ sequences are projected as they perform, creating an infinite mirror of reflections. The mattresses with various body parts, drawn in a gestural style, also recall Kentridge’s use of piles of paper that sweep across a landscape. …” — Nadine Botha, Mail & Guardian