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.