In conversation with Alfred Hinkel about Stof at the Suidoosterfees

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With: Esme Marthinus, Byron Klassen and members of the Garage Dance Ensemble
Director: Alfred Hinkel
Choreographer: Garage Dance Ensemble, under direction of John Linden
Language: Afrikaans
Venue: Tent-aktief
Date and time: 27 April, 12:30 pm
Duration: 50 minutes
Price: R125

The Garage Dance Ensemble will be dusting off old stories and infusing them with new meaning. Inspired by the lyrics of Tina Schouw’s “The guardian and the keeper of the flame”, this multimedia production, through storytelling, poetry, song and dance, presents fragments of Dawn Langdown’s journey from Namaqualand through Namibia to Cape Town, and back to Namaqualand. Izak de Vries spoke to director Alfred Hinkel.

I have seen the Garage Dance Ensemble on stage in Springbok. While the moves and the choreography are breathtaking, I remember enjoying the use of ordinary, everyday objects in the show. For someone who has never seen the Garage Dance Ensemble, what sets them apart?

We like to think that we create work that allows our target audience (the folk living in the Nama Khoi municipality in particular, and folk from the Northern Cape in general) to see and hear themselves on stage. We generally use text in the Northern and Western Cape vernacular, since dance can be very alienating to an audience. Dancers can sometimes be so “other-worldly”. The text is a way of illuminating the choreographic story and allowing space for individual audience interpretation. What sets these dancers apart from many other dancers is that they are trained to experience their choreography rather than perform it.

Dawn Langdown’s journey is interlinked with yours. She passed away in 2022 after a formidable career. What made “die vrou met die lang bene” so special?

Dawn, net soos ek en John, was vol stront, en sy het vir niks geskrik nie. Daarom kon sy altyd in moeilike omstandighede kuns skep.

I want to shine the light on you for a moment. You studied ballet, danced at Sun City and eventually bought the Jazzart Dance Company with Dawn Langdown, John Linden and Jay Pather. You changed its name to Jazzart Dance Theatre and immediately set out to make it a representative, inclusive company. That was in 1986, when the Groot Krokodil still twitched his finger. Why are dance and inclusivity so important to you?

John, Dawn and I took over Jazzart, and Jay worked closely with us for a substantial period of time. I discovered at some stage of my career that working with moving bodies in a space was a sure-fire way of questioning and overcoming the prejudices with which I had grown up.

Why, then, did you form the Garage Dance Ensemble in O’kiep?

We moved here in 2010. We started work immediately and registered Garage officially in 2013.

You still work closely with John Linden. In fact, you are like twins in the dance world. Who decides what in your productions?

The one with the loudest voice and the most convincing argument wins.

I see that Esme Marthinus will be in Stof. Is she to be the voice of Langdown?

I don’t believe it is possible for anyone to be Dawn’s voice. Esme tells a few stories that all three of us have told her at some stage. We then attempt to comment on that through dance, song and Oom Dollie’s blik kitaar. But, in the end, Dawn speaks for herself from the screen at the end.

Marthinus also was the voorvrou in Krummelpap, not so?

Yes, she is the Garage voice that speaks directly to our audiences. “Die stem van die Namakwa-mense” (Radio NFM se quote).

I do not know much about Byron Klassen. He seems to be quite young. Could you tell as a little more?

Byron is a founder member of Garage. We have known him since grade nine when he was at Eersterivier High. He returned to O’kiep specifically to work with John and me, and is hell-bent on running the organisation in the next few years before one or both of us exit the space.

You use Tina Schouw’s haunting song “The guardian and the keeper of the flame” as the inspiration for Stof. It starts with a calling and turns into something of a love song. It is stunning, but has a rather Irish feel to it. Why choose that one? Schouw recorded numerous songs inspired by the San as well.

We have a long, fruitful, creative working relationship with Tina. The background to the song is the following: decades ago, she told me the story of the dream that she had about going on a journey and meeting her female ancestry.

As I awoke early one winter’s morning
I heard a voice so clear I heard it calling
Come come it said come walk with me
There’s so much here for you to see
And so it was that morn I went ajourneying.

And so on to the ending!

Yes, I have found “The guardian and the keeper of the flame”.

Maak maar jou eie gevolgtrekkings.

Why should audiences immediately book for Stof?

Because Stof is a once-off. Dit sal nie weer opgevoer word nie.

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