Spirit Moves You
Divine movement: Dance Umbrella brings Afro-fusion dancer Vincent Mantsoe toAustin
Vincent Sekwati Koko Mantsoe has been dancing his entire life.
Born into a South African home of sangomas who employed song and dance in their traditional healing and divination rituals, Mantsoe learned early on from the matriarchs of his family the value and power in choreographed performance.
Once he was introduced to music videos as a child, the Soweto schoolboy began to learn the physical vocabulary of street dancing and hip hop. But it wasn't until Mantsoe joined a formal dance company in Johannesburg where he found the true potential stored in his body's movements.
With the help of his mentor Sylvia Glasser and her Moving Into Dance Company, the boy who learned dance as a method of shamanistic spirituality found new ways to blend ancestral worship into contemporary performance for the stage.
Today, his versatile solo performances also include striking elements of martial arts, Tai Chi, ballet and traditional Balinese dance. Somehow, these disparate styles from three different continents flow effortlessly out of his singular, disciplined body.
The New York Times described Mantsoe's Afro-fusion style as "a direct expression of spiritual connection to something greater than the physical self." Indeed, the choreographer and associate artistic director has struck a chord with audiences all over the world.
This weekend, Mantsoe returns to Austin for two nights only, thanks to the efforts of Austin nonprofit dance company, Dance Umbrella, through the Discover Dance program that exposes Texas audiences to the best dancers in the world.
On Saturday, Mantsoe will perform with Austin's own Heloise Gold in a special invite-only fundraiser called Gula & Gold. Then on Sunday evening, Mantsoe will perform two solo works on the Stateside at the Paramount stage, both sharing the theme of creativity and life perpetuating even in the most impossible conditions.
"NTU" is an abstract piece exploring the continual cycle of ending and creation and the potential that always lies amidst nothingness. "Skwatta," his newest piece, is a demonstration of the kindness and joy that thrive even among the abject poverty of "squatter camps" throughout Africa.
It's rare that Austinites get the opportunity to witness a performance with this much cross-cultural appeal. As Mantsoe speaks not only in the vocabulary of dance but in the languages of three different continents, this is indeed one show you will want to experience in person.
Vincent Mantsoe performs at The State Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 - $23.00 and are available through the Paramount website. Tickets are also available for Saturday evening's fundraiser by emailing Dance Umbrella director Phyllis Slattery.