Garage Dance Ensemble
"Krummelpap, Scandals Wrapped in Prayer"
June 16, 2021
Co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center
Garage Dance Ensemble brings this deeply personal and socially charged contemporary dance-theatre work named for krummelpap, a South African comfort food similar to American grits. Featuring an uncompromising text by award-winning poet Ronelda Kamfer, the movement captures the personal and political circumstances and aspirations of the people of South Africa’s former mining community, Namaqualand.
Laser-focused on its community, Garage Dance Ensemble has rarely left its home turf. Now the five-dancer ensemble is coming to the U.S. for the first time, bringing one of its recent pieces. A work that combines stark poetry and powerful movement, Krummelpap, Scandals Wrapped in Prayer (originally Krummelpap, Afval en Sunlightseepbaddens) showcases the company’s unique approach to tell the stories of young people reckoning with the stigmas, violence, and rage of a damaged and disenfranchised community.
Scandals is the ensemble’s most recent work created through a process of collective choreography. At its heart lies a long, searing, and wide-ranging poem by South African literary star Kamfer, commissioned by Garage Dance Ensemble. Both words and movement vocabulary speak the local language, without flourishes and theatrical trappings.
For the production’s U.S. debut tour, the original text, written in a dialect of Afrikaans, will be translated by the author and presented in English.
About the Work
Scandals fearlessly bares the emotional dynamics between generations struggling with poverty and discouragement, environmental degradation, and social chaos through the eyes of youth. Kamfer sees many of the same struggles in her own life, struggles the dancers confront head on. Both the text and production design serve truth raw, distilling it to the essential.
The work is highly specific to the community it engages, yet the movements, words, and emotions hold universal resonance: shame and violence, longing and resilience run through the work. Though rough and unsettling in its tenor and subject matter, Scandals has moments of joy and exuberance, tension and release.
“We get to a deep dark space at moments in the piece, and then it’s time to release the audience a bit,” says Alfred Hinkel, Garage Dance Ensemble co-founder. “After one particularly intense section, we included a duet to a love song and later on a duet to local traditional music, in traditional costumes.” This isn’t a sideshow, however: “In the former we decided they would never actually make physical contact, so that the audience can make up their own minds about what it means. Is the male partner really there or in her imagination?”
The work’s title brilliantly distills. Krummelpap is South Africa’s staple dish, eaten by young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural, white, colored, and Black. Like American grits, it’s a porridge of corn meal and water, most often made for breakfast — a comfort food loaded with sustenance, and also with strife.
“Americans will see the relatability of the work,” explains Heloine Armstrong, production manager. “As colored people in South Africa, we have a similar sociopolitical experience to African Americans. Beyond that, there are many universal themes in our work as well. A diverse audience can relate to it because it’s so personal.”
Garage Dance Ensemble will bring Scandals to the U.S. in 2023-2024 as part of Center Stage, the cultural exchange program that has connected performing artists from abroad with American communities since 2012. Six other music, theatre, and dance ensembles from South Africa, Ethiopia, and the Philippines will also make independent tours or hold in-depth residencies with the program, promoting global ties and engaging with audiences on and off stage and online.
About the Ensemble
Garage Dance Ensemble is adept at creating from absence, at mounting rich and riveting performances in blank spaces like community halls. Making art meant to merge and reflect its community, the ensemble’s work is essential by necessity — and by choice. It’s immediate and raw, filled with passionate presence and clear, expressive movement. When you watch the dancers, you’re witnessing embodied thought and feeling.
In many ways, Garage Dance Ensemble traces South Africa’s recent past and current circumstances. Its home is O’Kiep, a remote former mining area in the Namaqualand (Northern Cape) region of South Africa, not far from the border with Namibia. Its dancers are youthful co-creators in the ensemble’s work, many of them hailing from backgrounds still too rarely featured on South African mainstream stages. Its founders are Alfred Hinkel and John Linden, two of South Africa’s most influential dance makers and company directors, perhaps best known for their decades-long work leading Cape Town’s Jazzart Dance Theatre to be one of the most important cultural and creative centers. From 1986 to 2010 they pioneered a teaching and performance ethos firmly rooted in the progressive ideological principles of the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
This performance is supported in part by a gift from the Easels. Additional funding is provided by the Joe and Linda Hopkins Arts Enrichment Fund.
This is Garage Dance Ensemble's first performance at the Moss Arts Center.
Garage Dance Ensemble is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.