Dancer and choreographer Gregory Maqoma staged a thought-provoking lament on life and loss as part of London International Dance Festival Dance Umbrella at the Barbican. His dance company Vuyani Dance Theatre and choir received a standing ovation on Thursday night for a stirring performance that highlighted global conflict and disharmony translated in contemporary dance.

‘The world has changed and we are constantly confronted with the scourge of violence against humans. I can’t help wondering how much the idea of a post-human era has infiltrated our very definition of humanity. Therefore this show’s message of death and its dire consequences must be communicated through a lament in order to tackle a universe where the age-old phenomena of greed, power and religion result in unnatural deaths,’ said Gregory.

Playing a professional mourner, he drew for inspiration on stories by fellow South African Zakes Mda, political events in his own country and around the world and music by French composer Ravel’s Bolero.

The story was played out on a stark set with a suspended cross centre stage and crosses depicting graves around the stage. At times the discordant cries from mourners, stilted unnatural movements of nine dancers possessed by spirits that looked manipulated by an invisible puppeteer and the powerful voices of the cappella quartet sent shivers through me. Not the sort of piece to watch if you’re in need of some tlc, but a piece that perfectly demonstrated our universal suffering in communities affected by deaths that are not our own and the urgent need for us to reconnect with our neighbour and reawaken our humanity before death overtakes us all.

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