Desert Crossings 'Vistas of our collective past'
Judith Mackrell, (Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis) – The Guardian 02/05/2011
'Friday may have universally been branded Kate and Will’s day, but it was also Unesco World Day of Dance 2011. And down at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, in among the bunting, the date was marked by the performance of a new work by Gregory Maqoma that, literally, pitches its choreographic imagination on a global scale.
Desert Crossings takes its inspiration from the fact that, 250m years ago, the English Jurassic coast and the Skeleton coast of Namibia were part of the same land mass – the Pangaea desert. And it’s with perverse, magnificent ambition that Maqoma attempts to reunite the continents by imagining the collective memories of the creatures that once inhabited them.
For this Lyme Regis performance, it helped that the work (part of the Creative Coast initiative) took place in situ, surrounded by the ancient rock formations of the Jurassic coast itself. But as a choreographer Maqoma has always been expert at conjuring the visionary and the magical. Desert Crossings opens in a kind of tectonic storm, thunder imploding through Steve Marshall’s score, with the four dancers, illuminated in fiercely slanted light, locked in violent spasm. As their limbs convulse, they appear to be undergoing drastic transformation. This shape-changing process continues throughout the piece as Maqoma’s dance imagery evokes millennia of evolution – small creatures littered on the hostile landscapes, darting reptilian figures, loping simians.
As the choreography becomes more overtly human – an expressive fusion of African and contemporary styles – Maqoma continues the theme of transition, orchestrating his dancers in a journey of migration, displacement, ritual and celebration that appears to continue across the centuries. On the small bare stage of the Marine Theatre they open up vistas of our collective past, stretching back through aeons of geological time.'