When one thinks of dance, one imagines grace, beauty and discipline. Ester van der Walt’s Transparent, which showed at the Rhodes University Drama Department’s Box Theatre on the 24 and 25 July as part of the Best of Fest series, breaks all of these definitions, replacing them with comedy, self-reflection and, above all else, individual expression.
Van der Walt struggles throughout her career to emulate the artistry of those past performers she revered and studied. She references them throughout Transparent, from renowned dancers like Pina Bausch and Yvonne Rainer to contemporary performers like Yolandi Visser and Zooey Deschanel. She has always drawn inspiration from all of these and more, but her attempts to emulate their work have always seemed to fall short.
This is not because of inability, the piece shows, but because of a difference of style. Van der Walt bares all to the audience and takes them with her on this journey of self-discovery, primarily through describing her challenges with weight loss, even to the point of slapping and wriggling parts of her body right up close to the faces of those in the first row.
The play is a testament to the idea that the individual is not created for emulation, but for artistry, and creation, and in an incredibly powerful final act Van der Walt exhibits this with a completely unique and overwhelming form of dance created from her distorted versions of many iconic performances in a commanding and unique climax that captures her own style entirely.