Yebo Yes, Afia ©Erik Linghede


The piece Yebo Yes! by dancers from the company Afia is celebrating its premiere in Germany on 24 May 2024 at fabrik Potsdam during Potsdamer Tanztage. It is as moving as it is thought-provoking.

The five dancers from the dance company Afia are enthralling with their energetic, precise, and rhythmic sequences. Rapid feet move through the space while hand movements derived from everyday gestures transform into wavelike currents. Tapping turns into stomping, whistling into singing, a common rhythm emerges. Not only do the voices of the artists and their singing accompany the dancing, they elevate it to an all-encompassing level. They are not only moving their own bodies through the space, the whole room appears to be moving along. Their joy while dancing is infectious. I am moved by their togetherness, their coolness, and their energy. I believe the people sitting with me in the audience feel the same way. Many are bobbing their heads, their feet follow the beat. Were it just about describing the movements of the dancers, I would be happy with these few sentences. Those who want to experience them – which I can encourage – should go to this performance themselves. But that is of course hardly the whole story.

©Erik Linghede

There are three Black people and two white people on stage. They encapsulate perspectives from South Africa and Sweden, scrutinize colonial heritage, bridge cultural and gender-specific distinctions. In the process, freestyle meets isiPantsula, a dance style that arose as a subculture during the time of Apartheid in South Africa and was used as an active form of resistance. For example, as a means of communication during demonstrations. Translated, “Yebo Yes” means “Yes, Yes!”, an affirming exclamation, which the dancers call out to one another. A community is formed. With mutual support and solidarity. While individual performers demonstrate their skills in expressive solos, they are simultaneously present as a group with dynamic choreography performed in unison. The individual is not above the group, but rather the group is above the individual.

While reading about the historical development of isiPantsula, I am reminded of South Africa’s current lawsuit against Israel in the International Court of Justice. Amongst other things, South Africa accuses Israel of 75 years of Apartheid. South Africa’s own years-long history with Apartheid may have influenced this case. South Africa’s Black population fought against racial segregation, forced migrations, and brutal oppression for decades. Resistance was criminalized. Precisely at this point in time, isiPantsula emerged as a dance that emboldened people to revolt. The country’s eleven ethnic groups joined forces in resistance. The UN first declared South African Apartheid a crime against humanity in the 1970s, with sanctions following. Though domestic and foreign policy pressure increased, it was not until 20 years later that Apartheid officially ended. The resulting ethnic and social disparity are still felt today.

The theater is not a vacuum. Dance is political. The voices seen and heard here influence a broader social discourse. During the performance, there is a predominantly white audience. I myself am writing from the white perspective. The emotions we leave this performance with, whether or not we call into question subtle and open power structures as a result of the piece, will depend on us and the privileges that we are able to avail ourselves of every day.

English translation by Melissa Maldonado

Yebo Yes! by Afia celebrated its German premiere on May 24, 2024 at the fabrik Potsdam as part of the Potsdamer Tanztage.