KIUKIU, is a new dance production that opened Friday evening at the Momentum Theatre at The South African State Theatre. KIU is a Swahili word that means thirst.

The story revolves around a society, set in scenery reminiscent of the kalahari, a dry arid landscape, that at the outset has an abundant water supply which is fast running out. As the water runs out, the thirst begins to bring out the worst in people, the social structures deteriorate and society breaks down, making the search for water even more difficult.

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This work is danced to live music performed at the back of a large stage area, while the dance takes place in front of the band, making the most of the space available.

The dancing and the music are both superb in their own right, but combined make this a magical piece of theatre. The music brings out the best in African rhythms and sounds, with very strong guitar, vocal and percussion telling the story through sound. The dance routines are violent in parts, and although dancers bodies are able to take a beating through years of practice and training, I cannot imagine that the dancers do not walk away from each performance feeling battered and bruised. The music and dance ranges from sensuous and gentle, to hostile.

Credit must go to both the choreographer and director, Mduduzi V Nhlapo and his team of dancers, Eutychia Rakaki, Nommangaliso Tebeka, Lesego F Baloyi, Usisipho Nteyi, Bongani Mthombeni and Nelson Malahlela. The teamwork exhibited by these dancers is what makes some of the movements in this work truly exceptional.

Credit to must go to musical director Thapelo Skhosana (guitar) and his band of musicians: Thabo Rapoo on percussion; Cromwell Modungwa on percussion & vocals; Nhlanhla Dube, Nomvula Nhlapo and Boitshoko Rafedile on vocals. From beautiful and haunting rhythms and melodies, to catchy melodies, this show included them all, and at one point in the show, the dancers were able to get the entire audience clapping along to one of the really uptempo musical pieces.

If you like African music, or if you like good dance theatre, then I recommend this. If you like both, then KIU is a must see.

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