RealTime Magazine

nathaniel stern: RealTime MagazineThe Future Makers
Lizzie Muller seeks out South African new media art

“… 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. …”

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Mail & Guardian

petra: Mail and Guardian reviewDance Umbrella Review

“… 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. Craig Morris and Athena Mazarakis are the lead dancers. Morris plays a drag queen who is experiencing a failing relationship with a man, played by Dawid Minnaar. He meets a girl, Mazarakis, with whom he falls deeply in love, but they are separated and Morris is sent to the army. Tones of loneliness, social prisons and a dehumanised soul emerge.”

“Mazarakis and Morris display a scintillating chemistry and ease of intimacy and movement — their talents are perfectly matched. In the power of his leading performers’ duet relationship, Sabbagha’s choreographic hand is at times erased by the Mazarakis-Morris force. They head up a troupe of five other dancers and Sabbagha’s orchestration of the larger ensemble lies to his credit, bar some tightening here and there.”

“On sound is Jennifer Ferguson live. Dismiss your preconceptions about the red-headed singer-songwriter. Integrating a pitch-perfect, heartfelt voice with low-fi digital beats and loops, Ferguson surprises with an ethereal sound, embodying a space of quietness on the otherwise quite frenzied stage.”

“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

This article featured in both the web and print editions.

The Star

the double room: feature in The Star, South AfricaDance circles in the sand
by Adrienne Sichel

Text transcribed from The Star, South Africa, 13 December 2001

‘Please stop this violent passage of time’ pleads a line of poetry that finally emerges from a series of projected footprints imprinted with fragmented words.

Impending death (in this case due to HIV / Aids) and the pressure to find personal closure inform this exceptional dance theatre work.

Not since Noah’s Phobia has this company produced a work of such profound fecundity. the double room represents the pinnacle of achievement for PJ Sabbagha and all of his Forgotten Angle collaborators.

The symbiotic relationship between all the dancer-choreographers, Nathaniel Stern’s animation, interactive video and performed slam poetry, Lisa Younger’s design and Declan Randal’s light is utterly remarkable.

the double room provides simultaneous exposure of two worlds – the conscious and the subconscious. The real and the surreal share the same time frame and thought line. Visual and aural poetry unfurl in truly elastic emotion as limbs and bodies and images disappear and reappear.

True to the duality of this enthralling 50-minute piece, the sand floor provides the perfect metaphoric base for the sands of time doubling as the circus ring of life. This soft, volatile surface also transforms Forgotten Angle’s characteristic bruising physicality into a lyrical yet no less challenging language.

At the center of this schizoid dreamscape is Gys de Villiers as the protagonist, marooned in a room, who triggers his past with the feel and sound of a spoon. Here’s a perfectly cast performer who moves with total integrity, emotional veracity and brilliant timing.

Memories (initially embodied by Athena Mazarakis, Craig Morris, Rayzelle Sham, and Raschika Marx dressed in black) materialize and his body becomes part of a gravity-surfing animation sequence.

As the man’s multidimensional reminiscences continue, a woman in white (his wife? his mother?) appears.

She is portrayed by Luana Nasser, whose strength and dramatic maturity perfectly complements and galvanizes the scattered narrative.

As always, Morris and Mazarakis are the backbone of mind-whirling ensembles and emerge as consummate artists in an Edith Piaf No Regrets duet.

Morris also tangles with De Villiers before he vanishes – quite literally.

Rush to the dance Factory before the double room itself disappears. There’s no guarantee producers will snap up this imaginative exploration of relationships, which deserves the widest possible exposure.