The Dance Umbrella festival now in its 27th year and with principal funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, returns to its traditional calendar slot this year and will run from 26 February to 15 March.
There is a strong focus at this year’s festival on female choreographers. Since Dance Umbrella’s inception male choreographers have dominated the contemporary dance scene, but over the past few years this has shifted and Dance Umbrella 2015 will focus on, and celebrate, the works of female choreographers in recognition of “the long walk” they have had to make to reach this point. Both the established and the young, upcoming female choreographers will share the programme with a few of their male counterparts.
Featured in two weeks of exciting contemporary dance and performance art will be the new works of 15 commissioned choreographers, international collaborations, a dance writer’s workshop, Master classes, Face to Face discussions, a Young choreographers programme, a Student choreographers programme and two new programmes: Street Beat and Negotiating Spaces.
Dance Umbrella 2015 gets off to a fiery start with a new work created by Berlin-based choreographer Constanza Macras called On Fire at the Dance Factory on Thursday and Friday, February 26 and 27 at 19:00. This work deals with the re-evaluation of heritage and tradition in relation to segregated cultural groups and reflects on the post-colonial/post-Apartheid power struggle. Macras has worked with a mixed cast of Berlin and South African based performers and the Johannesburg-based artist Ayana V Jackson. Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, On Fire is co-produced by Dance Umbrella in partnership with Senatskanzlei fur Kulturelle Angelegenheiten- der Regierende Burgemeister Berlin and with support from Rudolf Augstein Stiftung, Goethe Institut South Africa and Momo Gallery.
A new work called What the Hell Happened to This Place?? will be presented at the Dance Factory on Saturday February 28 at 18:00 and Sunday March 1 at 14:00. It was created specifically for the GoetheonMain by the South African performance artist, Thabiso Pule. Funded by the Goethe Institut, Johannesburg, the work looks at how our environment has been the victim of all sorts of attacks and is being destroyed through pollution and man-made disruptions.
Well known Cape Town-based choreographer Jay Pather brings a new installation work to the MOAD (Museum of African Design) on Saturday and Sunday February 28 and March 1 at 19:00. rite is a re-imagining of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). Working in all the spaces in the MOAD, the work becomes a conversation amongst forms: classical and contemporary African dances, image, ritual performance and video, played out in downtown Johannesburg. There is an age restriction – PG 13 (nudity).
On Sunday, March 1 at the Wits Theatre from 10am onwards, a new programme comes to Dance Umbrella. Working in partnership with Matthews Manamela from Oupoks Projects and Services, Dance Umbrella has created this new platform, Street Beat with its focus on contemporary street dance, to replace the now somewhat dated Stepping Stones programme. Street Beat will feature Hip Hop and Pantsula. This upbeat programme was curated from auditions held throughout Gauteng facilitated by Manamela with David April and Sifiso Kweyama.
The first week of Dance Umbrella 2015 opens with a Double Bill programme at the Dance Factory on March 3 and 4 at 19:00. The work “fight, flight, feathers, f***ers” is a collaborative from Moving into Dance Mophatong’s Sunnyboy Motau and the British-born choreographer Rachel Erdos. It explores the politics, psychology and physicality of masculinity and the fight or flight principle. The second work The Architecture of Tears is a highly acclaimed work by ex-Jazzart Dancers and the Figure of 8 Dance Collective (F08). This work explores human responses to attraction beyond general and social correctness and received praise in Cape Town for being an innovative and interesting work.
Themba Mbuli, also Cape Town-based, has created a new work called Ashed. Working with the Unmute Dance Company, Ashed mirrors the evolution of South Africa… “Looking at ourselves as a nation, where did we come from, where are we and where are we heading to”. Ashed is presented in partnership with Artscape and the British Council and will be presented at the John Kani Theatre, Market Theatre on March 3 and 4 at 20:15.
Another Cape Town-based choreographer, the internationally renowned Mamela Nyamza will premiere a new work, created in residency in Senegal, Cape Town and Germany, called Wena Mamela on March 5 and 6 at 19:00 at the Dance Factory. Nyamza performs an eccentric solo that reflects on her personal history as a black South African woman and dance artist. In dazzling pictures she dissects the shackles of tradition and goes beyond the expectations of a female dancer.
Gavin Krastin has created a new work called On Seeing Red together with sound composer Shaun Acker. This work offers a reflective and sometimes ridiculous escape into a land of arresting images and absolute nonsense. It charts a journey of abandoning land and ideas of the body in an effort to flee from impending global chaos. Presented in collaboration with the National Arts Festival the work can be seen at the Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre on March 5 and 6 at 20:30. It carries an age restriction – PG18.
Two new Dance Umbrella programmes take place at the Wits Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8: the first is the Young Choreographers platform at 14:00 which includes Ons gedoentes by Byron Klassen from Okiep, Northern Cape, The Life I’ve Lived by Sthembiso Khalishwayo from Durban, Lethlhogonolo Nche from Kimberly, Loren Seekooi from Cape Town and Thabo Kobeli and Mckintosh Jerahuni from Johannesburg; and the second, is the Student Choreographers platform at 16:00 which features works from selected young choreographers and students at Tshwane University of Technology, Oakfields College in Midrand and other freelance artists.
The well-known Zimbabwean Tumbuka Dance Company returns to Johannesburg with a new work from the Zimbabwean choreographer, Nora Chipaumire. Portrait of myself as my Father can be seen at the MOAD Gallery, Maboneng precinct on March 7 at 20:00 and March 8 at 19:00. This work celebrates masculinity, the black African body and performance and interrogates the “Zimbabwean” self. Chipaumire is now resident in New York and her re-imagining of ‘dark swan” won her the 2014 Bessie Award.
The second week starts with the works of two young local choreographers, Thoko Sidiya and Kitty Phetla. Both works focus on the role of women and the strength and power that they have and need today. Also included in this programme will be a special tribute performance for the Soweto Dance Theater founder, the late Mbuyiselwa ’’Jackie’’ Semela. Semela was, and is an iconic figure in the dance industry; his works and contribution are acknowledged and revered in South Africa and internationally. His contribution to the performing arts, specifically dance, saw the conception of Soweto Dance Theater (SDT). The piece being presented is Holywalk Repertoires, comprised from a gospel dance piece created by Semela in 2001 and re-choreographed by Thabiso Manare. This Triple Bill programme will be presented at the John Kani Theatre, Market Theatre at 19:00 on March 10 and 11.
Sello Pesa once again creates an outside installation work called Simunye: We are One, performed by the Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre. It will be performed in the Newtown Precinct on March 12 and 13 from 18:30. This work delves in the subject of patriotism and examines what makes up the “Rainbow Nation”. Questions asked are: “Is it only through legal citizenship that one becomes truly South African? Or does living, working and contributing to life here make one South African?”
Veteran choreographer Tossie van Tonder makes a comeback with a new work called Chthonia. Focusing on van Tonder’s 32 year long archive, her life will be given full expression through this work which embodies the strength and emotion that this ageing female dancer expresses. Chthonia will be presented at the John Kani Theatre on 12 and 13 March at 20:00.
Nelisiwe Xaba will be working with the theme of “Exotic Dance” in her new work Fremde Tänze (Foreign Dances). Created in residency at the Julius-Hans-Spiegel-Zentrum in Freiburg, Germany, the focus on this work is investigating the forgotten aspect of German and West-European “Modern” dance. During her residency she created a dance evening based on female dancers such as Mary Wigman and Sent M’Ahesa from mainly the 1910s and 1920s. Fremde Tänze is at the Dance Factory on 14 March at 20:15 and 15 March at 14:30.
Ngizwise, which will be presented on March 14 at 19:00 and March 15 at 15:00 at the John Kani, Market Theatre, is collaboration between South African Sonia Radebe and Canadian Jennifer Dallas. Performed by 4 four powerful male dancers from Moving into Dance Mophatong, the work uses a unique and combined dance language crafted by the two choreographers. The work reveals intimate stories of South Africa under Apartheid.
Dance Umbrella’s final programme takes place at the MOAD Gallery on Sunday March 15 from 19:00. Called Negotiating Spaces, seven choreographers will negotiate their way around the space assigned to them within the gallery. Audiences can walk from work to work and the choreographers include Thapelo Kotlolo and Thuso Lobeke from Sibikwa, Leigh Nudelman, Kristin Wilson in collaboration with Rob Murray, Kieron Jina and Chuma Sopotlela from Cape Town.
Other events that will take place during Dance Umbrella 2015 are: Master Classes by former Jazzart director Alfred Hinkel from March 4 to 7 at the Dance Space in Newtown. Experienced (intermediate /advanced level) and professional contemporary dancers interested in participating can call Lindiwe at 011 492 2033; a Dance Writers’ Workshop presented by Dance Umbrella in partnership with the Goethe-Institut, South Africa and facilitated by Mary Corrigall, an arts critic and senior feature writer at The Sunday Independent. Corrigall will work with selected participants in an intensive workshop which will assist them in reviewing, interviewing and writing generally about contemporary dance, with the focus on Dance Umbrella 2015. They will be responsible for three festival newspaper editions; the popular Face-to-Face interviews where a few selected choreographers, will discuss the various aspects and creative processes of their staged works, after a performance. Audiences will be invited to join in the conversations; and Excavating the Personal – Choreographing the Archive which will address issues around archive in performance and the process of developing performance out of archives. Presented by The Ar(t)chive, Wits School of Arts and facilitated by Adrienne Sichel, this presentation will be held at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on March 9. For further information email Jessica Denyschen, The Ar(t)chive project manager on email@example.com
Dance Umbrella 2015 extends a thank you to its many partners, without whom the festival would not have been presented: the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, who is the principal funder, the Goethe Institut Johannesburg, National arts Council and Rand Merchant Bank who both assisted with the Dance XChange and/or Dance Space Residency Programme 2014. Other partners include French Institut of South Africa, the MOAD Gallery, Embassy of Israel, South Africa, National Arts Festival and City of Johannesburg, Oupoks Projects and Services, Capital National Arts Council and The A(r)tchive.
Tickets – R60 to R100 are available from Computicket – 083 915 8000 or www.computicket.com
The Dance Umbrella 2015 programme is available at www.danceforumsouthafrica.co.za