Fresh from performing “Swan Lake” in Canada and the U.S; choreographer, teacher and dancer Llewellyn Mnguni returns to South Africa to debut his latest work entitled Prozac.
In an eclectic, frantic yet nuanced dance language, Prozac interrogates the collective self-medicating society we live in especially in a bustling city like Johannesburg. “Just like the labels found in different medications designed to cure different ailments, human beings label each other around appearance, behavioural patterns, geographical environment, history, culture as well as sexuality,” says Mnguni.
Prozac acts as a metaphor to dissect the mental slavery of modern society especially in an South African context.
“There is a certain vulnerability and strength in being misunderstood or different that I personally have an interest and connection with. In between these cityscapes I experience so much discrimination, judgement and lack of understanding from the people who inhabit it. What is also interesting is that the same people, who are judging, deal with their own battles of being misunderstood because there is something different about them,” says Mnguni.
Mnguni took his first “Latin and Ballroom” dance class at the age of 11. “I had this innate urge to dance in the house when I was growing up. I would constantly be imitating anything I perceived as dance in the corridors of my childhood home – it seemed natural and gratifying to me.”
“I first choreographed this work when I was in Grade 12, then the school decided to assist me in taking it to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, so I decided after 10 years to rework it and update it according to our current state of being in South Africa. I chose the dancers who I personally know and have worked with in order to receive the best results,it was important to me that their technique was great and had a good sense of emotional expression and awareness.”
This work investigates the power exchange between people mimicking the same interplay of an asylum between the doctor and the patients. Depending on the patient’s prognosis, they are all treated and interact differently to each other. Taking inspiration from old school methods of psychiatric intervention such as such shock therapy, the dance play explores the characteristics of being “normal”.
The movement language between the cast captures the disjointed, sometimes whimsical and sometimes dangerous liaisons our bodies and minds have with each other as well as how they interact with the rest of the world.
Prozac debuts on the 6th of March at Dance Umbrella as part of the New Dance Programme which starts at 10am at the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, Soweto. Book at Computicket or call 0861 915 8000.