International dance, African music join for 'Men-Jaro'

dance duet“Men-Jaro: Friendship,” a collaboration between an international troupe of dancers and African musicians, will open the spring Artswego season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in Waterman Theatre.

A team of five top dancers, led by choreographer and performer Vincent Mantsoe, will join forces with musicians from the Traditional African Orchestra. South African composer Anthony Caplan created an original score for the production.

“Mantsoe dances as though he is in a state of possession, during which he opens himself up to huge, turbulent visions,” The Guardian said of the native of Soweto, South Africa. The 34-year-old has earned several international awards for his choreography and dancing.

While he is known for solo work like “Motswa Hole,” “Bupiro-Mikiti” and “Ndaa,” for “Men-Jaro” Mantsoe recruited an international roster of Lesole Maine (South Africa-U.S.), Meri Otoshi (Japan), and Aude Arago and Cecile Maubert-Mantsoe (France).

“Men-Jaro” is South African township slang for “friendship,” and Mantsoe aims to show how music and dance can interrelate closely. All the dancers and musicians are on stage the whole time, even if the dance pieces involve duets or solos.

“Preservation of culture’s true movement is one of my strongest motivations and, in my work, I combine influences rooted in African culture with Asian dance and philosophy,” Mantsoe explained. 

“Men-Jaro” similarly showcases “breaking down the barriers between contemporary dance and traditional African musical styles,” he said. “African dance has myths and legends like ballet, which tells its tales on stage; the difference being that in African dance, most of its so-called myths and legends are not told too openly on the stage.”

The production also turns on the live performance of the Traditional African Orchestra, South Africa’s first professional orchestra playing only indigenous instruments. For the SUNY Oswego show, five or six members are expected to perform Caplan’s modern score.

SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Series and Office of International Education and Programs sponsor the local appearance.

Tickets cost $22 ($18 for seniors and students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students).

For information or reservations, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or

This performance of Company Vincent Mantsoe is made possible by a grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program. It is also funded in part by the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided additional funding.

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CONTACT: Mary Avrakotos, 312-4581 or

(Posted: Jan 03, 2007)