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A CurtainUp London Review
An opening dance number is followed by music on the oud and the contortionist, the Spider Man bends his limbs in all sorts of seemingly impossible places. Dancers dressed as mine workers from South Africa give us an enthusiastic wellie dance using wellington boots to stomp out a rhythm. There is tap dancing on the back of a large car and these groups of dancers give way to some dressed as corn dollies who leap over each other. It is vibrant, thrilling stuff.
The human pyramids take over forming towers of men, three men tall. The agility of these gymnasts is breathtaking as they jump down. Sometimes the towers drop in a straight line and just before they hit the ground they bounce away with a flourish. The trapeze artist, the strappado act Jean-Claude Belmat from Martininque, performs his act with no trapeze just suspended from straps with his arms. I especially liked it when he flew out over the audience in a big circle. A juggler shows his prowess with six balls and then eight. The first act closes with men from France and Martinique showing how they can break dance to hip hop music.
The second act brings more traditional dances from Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Tanzania and South Africa gives us the pole dancers but not the kind in gentlemen's clubs but men suspended and twirling on high poles often holding on with just one arm — amazing! People juggle tables with their feet and we get fire juggling and a pot spinner who spins eight large pots simultaneously. Some African Americans put on a display of basketball on unicycles, fast moving and exciting with plenty of comedy thrown in but the solo star act is Nokulunga Buthelezi from South Africa, the snake woman, a contortioniste who would put most yoga practitioners to shame by her extreme moves.
This colourful, atmospheric show astonishes with the athleticism of the participants. The finale comprises the flag waving of the flags of the participating African countries, a celebration of that interesting continent.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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