Monthly Archives: March 2013

I know why Icarus built wings

icarus1If Icarus were around today, I’d ask him to hold onto his vision and try again – this time just avoiding the sun. We all want to fly. We just don’t want to do it with airlines.

Airports are emotional places. If it’s not about business, you’re either saying hello, saying goodbye or about to take flight to be connected with people you love or to pursue grand adventures. I’ve always loved airports for this reason – for the fact that they don’t just move cargo and humans. Airports are intravenous portals of love, feeding us with life experiences and memory trays that fold away into the creases.

Airlines, however, are machines. Flawed, icy, heartless machines. In the tangle of flight patterns there are missed flights, delays, storms, technical faults, overpriced tickets, frustrated staff and bumpy landings.

On March 13th, I was due to fly to Durban, just for the night, to celebrate Flatfoot Dance Company’s 10th Anniversary. I was one of the original 10 dancers in the company.

As I set foot in the airport, I received a message from Kulula.com saying: “We’re sorry to inform you that your flight MN603 on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 from JNB at 5:15pm has been amended. The departure time has changed to 9:10pm.”

Apart from saying that I’d have to wait 6 days for a refund and that they could offer a R400 meal voucher, they could do nothing. And no other airline had an available flight. I left the airport in tears.

Airlines don’t get it. It’s never just a delayed flight – it’s a ripple effect of disheartening proportions. Every year, billions of people sit in your seats in the upright position. You take their hard-earned dough and deliver an uncomfortable, unsophisticated experience. You position yourselves as biltong but charge us for caviar. You make us pay for our snacks. We tolerate your cheap jokes and bilious green uniforms. You over tax us and underwhelm us. You move us like cattle over the clouds. You lose our luggage and spit us out into the airport and the only reason we forget and travel with you again is because the destination is far more important than the journey.

Kulula.com, you’re not just in the travel business. You’re in the heart business. “Sorry, there is nothing we can do” is the emptiest statement in the world. Of course, some things are not within your control like weather and technical faults but most other things are. When the gaffer tape that holds your wings together comes undone, it’s how you handle it that matters. Do something. Surprise me. Don’t just leave me with my disillusionment and tear-stained cheeks. Don’t message me an hour before a flight and offer no explanation and don’t man your desks with disempowered, careless staff. What you made me miss, I can never get back. There are no refunds or vouchers that can reignite memories or reunite me with people that mean something in my life. Kulula.com, I don’t want anything from you. I just want you to stop behaving like an airline.

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A Tribute to Flatfoot Dance Company

544132_493142170752247_572036972_nWe always referred to Lliane Loots, Artistic Director of Flatfoot Dance Company, as “Goddess”. Apart from feminist discourse and embracing yourself as an empowered woman, this Goddess taught me when to tread lightly and when to stamp my feet firmly on the earth.

I was two years into my first advertising job after college when Lliane called to ask me to be one of the 10 founding members of Flatfoot Dance Company. I remembered my days in the student company of the same name with such joie de vivre that I could not get the thought out of my mind. Advertising, at the time, was a male chauvinistic torcher chamber that did more to snuff my creativity and self worth than ignite it. I left the yellow-painted terrifying grip of Ogilvy and escaped to become a full-time dancer in Durban.

Mornings in studio began with the rolling up and down of the spine, stacking our bones above our feet and feeling the imaginary thread pulling up from the tops of our heads. Then came floor work. Here we would pay tribute to Martha Graham the goddess of contemporary dance and train the pelvis to contract and release. Standing up again, we would salute Erik Hawkins by acknowledging that ‘the arms are where the back puts them’. Laban Technique allowed us to travel from school to school teaching the privileged and underprivileged ones for R10 a class.

There was not a lot of money and we were constantly developing proposals and finding ways to survive. I lived with my parents and got two other jobs to make sure that I wasn’t behaving like the child that refuses to fly from the nest. I was infinitely happy.

Being a dancer is like tracing out the invisible lines in the planes of Life. You play in the suspended arena between reality and dream state. It is about awakening a consciousness that slumbers in other moments. When I dance, I am wholeheartedly consumed by the moment. Everything that troubles, nags and hurts disappears. I am present. I am conscious. I am alive.

I remember learning choreography and preparing for shows with the Company. We would train late into the night and just when we thought we couldn’t run the piece one more time, Lliane would make us tap our sternums and we’d find the energy again. Clare made us simple company t-shirts and we cut out the necklines as dancers do. The work was always profound – from dancing with teacups to the words of Elliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, to exploring the myth of Orion and Artemis over an anti-apartheid backdrop while learning to move like salmon, to exploring the idea of being strangers in a strange land. Lliane helped us throw ourselves into every sliver of choreography. My family and friends always sat in the front row and my brother always teased me about our body-slapping, breath-filled moves. I loved every minute.

Every time I stood in front of the audience for curtain call, I was thankful. Because somewhere inside I knew that being able to dance was a gift on loan and I knew that it wasn’t a journey that would last forever.

I chose to leave Flatfoot Dance Company for a few reasons – some of them utterly stupid – like love (or what I thought was love). Today, I work in advertising again and I don’t feel regret or bitterness because I had my time in the spotlight. But sometimes I do wonder whether I will ever feel as fulfilled as I felt as a dancer. I wonder if my mission to make good conscious dents in the world can be achieved while I look after brands. I wonder if the choreography I do in this world will move people. I wonder if after suspension, I can still find my release and I wonder if I am allowing my soul to dance.

Flatfoot Dance Company is an amazing creation born out of a true Goddess that challenged the idea of who can dance and how. Flatfoot Dance Company, you are in my muscle memory. You have a permanent space on the dance floor in my heart. Thank you for giving me a space in yours.

Thank you Lliane, Clare, Wesley, Marise, S’phelele, Sfiso, Ntokozo, Caroline, Seren, Musa and Wells.

Love and Chukkas.

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WANTED: Handsome Apartment With A Good Heart

Finding an apartment in Cape Town is like finding a man. It is, at any given time, both daunting and heartbreaking. And all the good ones are taken.

It all begins with the first sighimagesting. There’s hope, expectation and as the viewing approaches, a little bit of a thrill. Then you walk through the rooms and project yourself into future DVD nights and dinner parties in the space. It either beckons you, leaves you underwhelmed or totally repels you at a single glance. If you love it, your heart starts to race a little and outwardly, you try to appear calm and cool. If you hate it, you thank the person politely and make a quick exit.

Anyone who has ever gone in search of a medium to long-term rental in Cape Town can vouch for this – finding a shoebox to live in requires patience, tenacity and a gut familiar with rejection.

This was my list of suitors:

  1. No. 23 Arthurs Road. Tiny, modern security complex. Absolutely devoid of character. And the current occupant keeps her shoes in the kitchen cupboard. It went to a Brazilian student who offered 6 months rental upfront.
  2. No. 8 Milford House. This was love at first sight. Bright and airy, charming and delightful. I got down on one knee for this one. But the owner commanded God’s blessings on me and gently informed me that there were still other viewings taking place in the week. I made my intentions supremely clear but a few days later, the owner picked someone else named Jennifer. Why not me? Maybe this was the dialogue that went down between the Milfords: “She’s young and single. She’ll probably party too much and bring boys over.  She says she often works late. Hmm, we don’t want a racket late at night now do we dear? She’s Indian. They make a lot of curry.” Or perhaps it was as simple as this: They just weren’t into me.
  3. 189 Main Road. Just above Luv Land.
  4. Arthurs Road (again). This date took place on the phone and it was a break up long before it was even a hook up.
  5. No. 404 Rockaways. 3 couples (and me) rocked up to view this one. It was a game of “Let’s see who’s best at buttering up Mr and Mrs Buchinsky.” And I wasn’t happy to play. Also, the non-existent washing machine outlet was a decider.
  6. No. 9 Glenyln Court. I was greeted by an odd, unkempt old man. I tried to imagine this spacious apartment without 500 pieces of furniture in one room. The rooms were big and underneath all the clutter, beautiful parquet flooring revealed itself but the smoky, mustiness of stale living, misery and whiskey lingered on my shirt long after the viewing. Something was not right about that place. Still, I thought I could scrub the walls with ammonia, sweep up years of depression, polish away the discomfort and fix the broken things. That night, I dreamt that as I was getting changed in the bedroom of No 9, the old man appeared in front of me as a ghost, naked. I awoke screaming.

The Cape Town Universe has been somewhat weird with me this week. It has had trouble deciding between the ridiculous and the remarkable. It served out a messy,  ‘ex’ scenario, overzealous hormonal tears (from accidentally taking the active instead of inactive pills), having my phone nearly stolen and recovered by heroic strangers called Taz and Jerome, taking in dollops and gulps of inspiration from the Design Indaba, stupidly calling sweet Sanjiv, Rajiv, getting my hopes up and having them crushed, feeling an enormous pressure to be brilliant and epic. And finally, tasting the most sumptuous macaroons in the world, courtesy of Priya and Shaun.

After a week of playing the Cape Town scene, I leave alone. I’m still single and there is no suitable lap to rest my head on. But as dear Mandie so aptly points out, “It’s not you. It’s Cape Town.”

So I finally take a deep breath and a long walk on the Promenade and decide to calm down and start again. Being single is hard work. You don’t want to appear desperate and you don’t want yet another problem case. You just want somewhere bright and lovely, safe and with a good energy; you want to see your unborn mornings on the porch, drinking coffee and staring up at the mountains and most of all you just want a place you can call Your Other Half. Your home. Your sanctuary.

With the sun beating down on my shoulders and the breeze cooling my heart, I feel like I could still be in love with the Mother City. Cape Town, I’m not done with you. One day, the right one will come along.

 

 

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