U.S. Premiere | Dance/Music-Theatre

Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro

January 15 at 7:30pm | January 16-18 at 8pm | January 18 at 2pm at The Joyce Theater | 60 minutes

Set in a graveyard filled with the persistent cries of visitors in mourning and the poignant music of Isicathamiya singers (an a cappella singing style originating from the Zulus), Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro vividly elicits emotions associated with the loss of life. Physically charged and visually striking, the work is choreographed by South African native and internationally-known choreographer Gregory Vuyani Maqoma. Cion draws inspiration from author Zakes Mda’s novel,  Cion and Ravel’s Boléro,  and is, in Maqoma’s words, “a lament, a requiem required to awaken a part of us, the connection to the departed souls.”


A production of Vuyani Dance Theatre


Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature


Photo Credit: John Hogg

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In this piece the message of death and it’s dire consequences are infused through a lament to be able to confront a universe in which the age-old tropes of greed, power and religion have given rise to loss of life not as a natural phenomenon. Toloki, the professional mourner weaves through this virtual landscape of dissolution giving rise to a catharsis of universal grief that will conquer the sadness, the hard reality continuing to permeate the living confronted by death that is not their own, often so unexpected, brutal and merciless. Cion as in Zion, the African church  is set in a graveyard, a church where the body is religion and the voices are personal. Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro, draws inspiration from creations by two artists: the character Toloki in South African author Zakes Mda’s novels Cion and Ways of Dying and music from French composer Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. It’s a universal story encompassing the past and the present that champions our ability to band together to share the burden of grief. Set in a graveyard with the persistent cries of people in mourning and the a cappella music of Isicathamiya in our languages sang by a quartet to the creative arrangement and composition by Nhlanhla Mahlangu that vividly elicits emotions associated with the loss of life performed by nine dancers who are themselves possessed by the spirit and being one with the departed souls and finally lying them to rest for peace and humanity to prevail. Maqoma’s message through this work is that we need to pause for a moment and urgently think about the pain inflicted on others by the actions of others.
In Colonial era South Africa, the mass relocation of peoples created a multilingual and multicultural society. In distinct reaction to music and dancing being outlawed in work compounds and factory yards, singing was reborn in whispers and dance in hidden gestures.  This new artistic language, rooted in the traditions of black South African workers, has the capacity to communicate beyond words, what the South Africans call “Ingoma.” It is in this artistic language that CION effuses, seeking to communicate a powerful shared human experience.
Read the libretto here

Gregory Vuyani Maqoma

Nhlanhla Mahlangu