Robyn Orlin’s World Full of Butterflies


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In A World Full Of Butterflies, It Takes Balls To Be A Caterpillar, Some Thoughts On FallingRobyn Orlin, nicknamed in South Africa “a permanent irritation”, is a controversial and provocative artist well known for reflecting the complex realities in this country. In her unique style of choreography, she integrates diverse media (text, video, plastic arts) and creates a most innovative theatrical reality.

In A World Full Of Butterflies, It Takes Balls To Be A Caterpillar… Some Thoughts On Falling… is a title as long and evocative as a poem on which it is delightful to ride and dream about. This is the name of Robyn Orlin’s new piece, performed by Elizabeth Bakambamba Twanbe and Éric Languet. Once faced with dancers’ refusal to perform in front of the image of the man falling off the twin towers on 9/11, Robyn Orlin questioned the emotional power of images and the limits of representation, invokes the myth of Icarus and reflecting on the lives of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

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In A World Full Of Butterflies, It Takes Balls To Be A Caterpillar… Some Thoughts On Falling… Photo © Thomas Lachambre.
In A World Full Of Butterflies, It Takes Balls To Be A Caterpillar… Some Thoughts On Falling… Photo © Thomas Lachambre.

It deals with the image of the man falling from the twin towers, but on a higher level it questions the downfall and anxiety of a world that is sick and blind. A metaphor of our society described with solemnity and humor, seen as beautiful, poetic and painful.

Robyn Orlin started off working at the Market Theatre, a hub of artistic life in the city, especially among anti-apartheid activists. She joined the Federated Union of Black Artists’ Academy (FUBA), where she created a contemporary dance section and choreographed and facilitated works during the 1980s. Orlin has worked in diverse media including television, film, theatre, dance and opera as a choreographer, producer, dancer and teacher. Her work has been recognized in South Africa and abroad through various awards, bursaries and scholarships.

In 1990 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and attended The School of Art Institute of Chicago. She returned in 1994 and joined the Market Theatre Laboratory, where she taught youth from marginalized backgrounds. She has won several other awards, including the AA Vita Award for choreography in 1985, 1988 and 1990; a British Council Scholarship in 1986; a Foundation of the Creative Arts grant in 1995 and 1996; FNB Vita Award for the best choreographer in 1996; the Jan Faber Award for the most subversive choreography in 2000; and the British Theatre’s Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 2003.

In a recent career highlight as a choreographer working extensively in France, she received from the French President in 2009 a most prestigious award as an artist: Knight of the French National Order of Merit.

Orlin spends her time divided between living in Berlin, where her husband Oliver Schmitz makes films, in her hometown Johannesburg, and on the road touring. However, Johannesburg remains her main source of inspiration and creative drive.

This performance in South Africa has been made possible through a collaboration between the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the Market Theatre Foundation, as part of the Market Theatre Foundation’s 40 years celebration.

Dates and venues:
John Kani @ the Market Theatre, Johannesburg
Show on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th December at 8 pm
Running time: approx. 1 hour
Tickets are available by visiting or calling 011 832 1641.

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