Sylvia Glasser’s 'Tranceformations' moves stage, rewrites art history

Sylvia Glasser’s ‘Tranceformations’ moves stage, rewrites art history

Never a contemporary dance show has set a stage on fire and filled it with invisible and visible spirits like Sylvia Glasser’s Tranceformations did in South Africa.

History and dance have met, and the encounter has not only revived ancient history but rewrote it in a very refined and comprehensive manner even historians themselves will have difficulties understanding it.

It has been said that Glasser began considering the idea of a dance piece based on a trance dance or healing ritual closely linked to Bushman/San rock art.

The way of life of these people is too complex to understand for the ‘modern’ man, and if ‘Magogo’ Glasser was really inspired by their rock art and trance dancing, it is just logical that it took her years of research and study to produce Tranceformations – trance and formations.

Little by little and slowly but surely, the audience is taken back to the ancient world, the world of those who refuted modern civilisation to remain pure and unscathed by the ‘ills’ of modernism and its fast-changing trends.

Tranceformations is a piece of art in motion, and a Glasser’s journey that began in 1987 and culminated in 1991 when she choreographed the piece. It is a tribute to the San/Bushman art, which remains intact decades after their ‘demise’ from their own land by the so-called modern and civilised people.

It is said that this rock art arose out of the experiences of the shamans or medicine men. During the healing ritual, the medicine men acquired supernatural potency and they experienced an altered state of consciousness.

And this piece would have not been born without the invaluable help of Wits University (Johannesburg) Prof David-Lewis Williams, a renowned archeologist, author and academic.

The dancers who featured on Tranceformations were amazing and their stunning performance fitted the occasion: the celebration of 21st anniversary of the Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM), a group Glasser founded to stir the youth out of boredom, unemployment and maybe of a life of crime.

MIDM also got immense support from the corporate world, which helped fund not only its 21st anniversary celebration, but also a series of shows that took place throughout 2012.

And these companies are:

  • National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund
  • Rand Merchant Bank
  • Business Arts South Africa
  • Rand Water Foundation
  • Dancing for the Children
  • National Arts Council bursaries, and
  • Arts and Culture Trust with Nedbank Arts Affinity.

*PIC: JOHN HOGG. A scene from Tranceformations



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