From Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic:
A dancing man in a light-colored suit emerges slowly from the darkness, then the shadows and on into the light. Once fully illuminated, he will soon transport himself back into time and transform into a chief from South Africa’s Xhosa tribe — a proud, determined leader who will lose his land and his life but not his legacy fighting the British colonialist takeover in the 19th century.
The ferociously gifted dancer-choreographer Gregory Maqoma pays homage to his revered Xhosa ancestor in “Exit/Exist,” the mesmerizing dance piece presented over the weekend at On the Boards. It was part of a citywide “Race Alive” program, sponsored by several local arts institutions, which investigates race and culture.
The packed house at OTB on Saturday night witnessed a stunning performance, in which the Johannesburg-bred Maqoma’s tautly expressive frame and his very sinews seemed to communicate the entire history of an unjustly vanquished people.
Employing resonant visual accents of streaming sand and piles of grain, “Exit/Exist” was thoroughly hypnotic — thanks not only to Maqoma’s virtuosity, but also the gorgeous harmonies and anguished lamentations of the four-man South African vocal ensemble, Complete, which accompanied him live.
Maqoma and his Vuyani Dance Theatre have visited Seattle before, impressively. But “Exit/Exist” was something rare and indelible: an offering of transcendent power, inducing a collective trance that leads to greater historical understanding.