The 10-member dance troupe of the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO) on Thursday 24 August 2017 premiered ‘Thiasus’ with international guests from the UK (Ellie Hick), USA (Alexa Moore), Netherlands (Eva Lobker), Norway (Andrine Faleide) and Germany (Milena Nowak) at the Goethe-Institut Namibia.
Recognised around the world, OYO uses an art form not so common on the local scene to inform, educate and raise awareness of Namibia’s social problems when communicating to a diverse audience at once. “OYO uses physical theatre, which is the telling of a story through movement and without words. Contemporary dance is often perceived as abstract. Physical theatre is not abstract. It really builds from story telling,” said Founder and Director of OYO, Philippe Talavera.
Every year OYO is privileged, over the northern hemisphere summer holiday, to welcome young dancers to work with its troupe. It has become a custom to every August present the work Namibian dancers create with the international guests. “The rationale behind the piece is the escalating problem alcohol abuse poses in Namibia. We all talk about alcohol. We all complain about the huge number of shebeens in various communities. We even complain shebeens are opened closer and closer to schools, yet nothing is done,” said Talavera.
The piece is inspired by the mythical figure of Dionysus and his followers, traveling in processions called Thiasus and recruiting newcomers to join in their celebrations. Too many young Namibians get pressurized to join in parties, and too often they regret their actions, a little too late.
“Before they came to Namibia, interns were invited to create short solos on the idea of choices – being torn between what’s right and what’s wrong. It was to see what they thought about the topic, but also to use their solos as starting material for the piece. Some sections of the piece ‘Thiasus’ are inspired by their solos. Other sections have been brainstormed with all dancers,” said Talavera who did the overall choreography. This work is significant to Namibia as it shows once more the benefit of international collaboration. Talavera said ‘we have Namibians working alongside American, British, German, Dutch and Norwegian dancers. In the world of today, torn apart by terrorism and racism, such examples should be nurture. The future lies in such collaboration, where different people united by a common passion – in our case dance – come together, learn from one another and respect one another. By working together, we learn about the other and his/her culture. We learn to become global citizens.’
After the premiere, ‘Thiasus’ will become part of the OYO’s repertoire. As such the piece will be used to create awareness in schools and communities around the country. As always with OYO’s work, it will be followed up be facilitated discussion with learners and adults, to encourage them to reflect on the situation presented.
The audience at the Goethe-Institut Namibia, packed to capacity, also witnessed ‘Concrete Angels’, choreographed by Talavera with OYO dancers, and a short solo by Ellie Hick.