by Stanford Live

South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma's newest work, Broken Chord, focuses on a forgotten moment in history when a South African–based chorus whose tour through North America and England in the late 19th century was marred by the realities of racism. Combining dance, song, and storytelling, the piece vividly reimagines the tour using a chorus of singers and a quartet of musicians, all led by Maqoma himself. As the choir confronts racism at every turn, Maqoma and co-creator Thuthuka Sibisi use prejudice as a creative engine for a theatrical experience that pulses with hard truths and infinite creativity. The piece concretizes the burden of the white gaze and what it feels like to move beyond the constricting box it constructs.

Gregory Maqoma spoke with Stanford Live Magazine about the creation of this performance. 

What motivates you to create?

Inequalities, prejudice, and racism in the world. These motivate me to use the power of dance to voice my opinion.


Broken Chord was created by you and Thuthuka Sibisi. How did you decide to collaborate and create the piece together?

Thuthuka is a composer whose work responds to the politics and issues of the time and so is mine. I felt that together we could make our voices stronger and share this story. 


The piece was inspired by an exhibition in the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. How did you research the choir that inspired the piece?

The research already existed in the form of the exhibition that Thuthuka and Philip Miller had put together in Johannesburg. I used the information from the museum to create Broken Chord. Thuthuka and I felt strongly that the issues that the choir faced were the same issues we continue to face, a confrontation and the complexity of the West versus the South. Issues of displacement, migration, and the closing of borders are issues that have been there since the beginning of time and we continue to experience. 
Can you tell us about the style of music used in Broken Chord?
The music is a combination of African choral music with European classical choral and voices. 
What is the most difficult part of creating new performances?  
To stay true to the story without turning it into a lecture.
What do you hope audiences take away from experiencing Broken Chord
I hope that what audiences can take away is a sense of urgency we need to resolve issues that affect our judgment of others and that we each have a role to play in making the world a better place.