The Extraordinarily Joyous 'Dance Umbrella'

The annual Dance Umbrella festival, takes place at Wits in Braam, and again the wealth of new work is a testament to their achievement through the decades.

21/02/2017 04:57 SAST | Updated 21/02/2017 06:09 SAST
Joshua Walter

For those individuals involved in what is regarded as the niche side of the arts, live performances like theatre, classical music and dance, both classical and contemporary, celebrating twenty-nine years of existence with this year's Dance Umbrella is an extraordinarily joyous event.

Artistic Director Georgina Thomson knows that but she's always had that fight in her which explains why this festival will for the twenty-ninth time be staged by the Dance Forum from February 23 to March 5 funded by the Department of Arts and Culture, Gauteng Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture as well as in partnership with the National Arts Council of South Africa, Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud (IFAS), the Goethe Institut and Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council.

This twenty-ninth edition of the annual Dance Umbrella festival, takes place at the Wits Theatre Complex, in Braamfontein and again the wealth of new work is a testament to their achievement through the decades. They started with sixteen choreographers and this year's fifty new productions – even in troubled and tough times – speak volumes. They're a tough constituency determined to showcase rather than speak about their worth.

Oscar O'Ryan

The full programme consists of thirteen commissioned works, thirteen new works and six Johannesburg premieres with Nhlanhla Mahlangu's The Workers Chant aptly staged at the Workers Museum in Newtown to start the festivities on an activist note on February 23 and 24 at 7pm celebrating the unsung heroes who built the city with their bare hands; the black migrant workers. That very ethos also explores the world we're living in today and how this kind of exploitation still flourishes.

It should get all the energy levels rising for what's to come from start to finish:

From Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi's Corpsat the Wits Downstairs Theatre on February 24 and 25 at 7pm which explores the links that connect the real and the unreal through photography and dance as well as today's world and the past through the ancestral history of South Africa to Jazzart's Space by artistic director Sifiso Kweyama, at The Wits Theatre on February 24 and 25 at 8pm. As the title suggests, it's exactly that which he investigates.

Just as the name suggests, Mamela Nyamza's De-Apart-Hateis described as a potent weapon to make the oppressor understand that he/she is human and not superior over other human beings. It will be staged at the Wits Amphitheatre on February 24 and 25 at 9pm and was created in residency at the University of Maryland in Washington in the US.

Oscar O'Ryan

For this year's Fringe, Thomson wanted to highlight young artists that are showing promise and staying power and need the platform. While there are a few recognisable names, she was focusing on those at the beginning of their careers rather than those who are already established. "I'm taking a chance and giving them a showcase," she says showing her intent for this year's emphasis on youth.

On Sunday February 26 at 10am at the Wits Theatre nearly thirty new works from young choreographers including Julia Burnham (Vuyani Dance Company), Thembinkosi Puwane (Eastern Cape), Qiniso Zungu and Teresa Mojela aim to engage and excite their audience.

The South African born choreographer Rudi van der Merwe's installation work Trophée, on February 25 and 26 at 3pm in a park in Johannesburg (still to be named) is an outdoor performance with a strong affinity to visual and land art as well as reference to the submission of women (trophy wife), of nature (hunting trophy) and the other by means of war throughout history.

On Tuesday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 1 at the Wits Theatre at 7pm, a triple bill, will feature Moving into Dance Mophatong's Oscar Buthelezi (and I am Not...) and Sonny Boy Motau (Stuck Souls) reflect on the world today, Buthelezi, as it becomes lost in waste, Motau, venturing into new and unknown spaces in a personal manner. Vuyani Dance Theatre's Lulu Mlangeni presents a solo page 27.

Also on February 28 and March 1, at the Wits Downstairs Theatre at 8pm, Songezo Mcilizeli premieres the commissioned Perspective with its focus on diverse culture and evolution. Honing in on everyday life scenarios, at the Wits Amphitheatre at 9pm, Dawn by the Katlehong-based choreographer Lucky Kele, explores the relationship between cultures and how we observe the traditional practices in moving time and space.

In the last few days of the festival, Fana Tshabalala collaborates with Constanza Macras/Dorky Park from Berlin, Germany with In The Heart of the Country at the Wits Amphitheatre on Thursday and Friday, March 2 and 3 at 7pm which is a physical exploration inspired by the "impossible dialogue" between blacks and whites, in JM Coetzee's literature and Njabulo Ndebele's book, Rediscovery of the Ordinary.

Ruphin Coudyzer

LADY, LADY by Gaby Saranouffi, Desiré Davids and Edna Jaime at the Wits Theatre, Thursday March 2 and Friday March 3 at 8pm, presents an experience into a diverse female universe within the Southern Africa region (South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar).

Also on March 2 and 3, at The Nunnery at 9pm Down to Earth by Kieron Jina and Marc Philipp Gabriel –deals with constructed identities, something that emerges more strongly in the world of today.

Detritus for One by Alan Parker, a physical theatre solo work with design by Gavin Krastin, is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4 at 6pm explores the notion of "performing the archive" in a reflection on our dance past.

Cape Town choreographer Kirvan Fortuin presents When they Leave, a triple bill of works at The Wits Theatre on Saturday, March 4 at 7pm and Sunday, March 5 at 2.30pm while Tutu by Tamara Osso at The Nunnery on Saturday, March 4 at 9pm and Sunday March 5 at 3.3pm explores the choreographer's white identity in relation to other identities.

Closing the festival on Sunday, March 5 is the Young Artists Programme where six young choreographers will present new works: Thami Tshabalala (K-Mad Dance Company); Douglas Sekete (Koketso Dance Project) and Khaya Ndlovu from 10:00 at the Wits Downstairs Theatre and Phumlani Nyanga (Vuyani Dance Theatre); Seodigeng Keaoleboga; Ashleigh Joubert, Bonwa Mbontsi and Tegan Peacock (ReRouted Dance Theatre) from 11.15am at the Wits Amphitheatre.

In addition they will also host, between February 27 and March 4, a series of Master Classes facilitated by selected choreographers and there'll also be the popular Face to Face conversations with choreographers.

Mkhize Photography

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