The Geneva Ballet, after its successful 2014 National Arts Festival (Grahamstown) and Cape Town season, returns to South Africa in June, 2015 for two weeks of workshops and performances.
Established in Switzerland at the start of the 19th century, the world-renowned Geneva Ballet, acclaimed for its rich repertoire of neo-classical and contemporary dance styles featuring highly skilled, classically trained dancers and top choreographers, debuts in Johannesburg at the Mandela, Joburg Theatre on June 17 with its contemporary re-imagined production of the classic Shakespearean tragedy Roméo & Juliette.
Preceding its debut at the Joburg Theatre, a collaborative project, HIGH FIVE – Choreographic Encounters will take place in Soweto and Johannesburg from June 8 to 14. The HIGH FIVE choreographers-of-note comprise Jozi locals – Gregory Maqoma, PJ Sabbagha and Fana Tshabalala with Capetonian Mamela Nyamza, together with the Geneva Ballet’s Nathanaël Marie.
An initiative of Philippe Cohen, Geneva Ballet’s director, HIGH FIVE is a unique collaborative project that focuses on choreography and its many forms of expression to provide an opportunity for artistic dialogue between the choreographers and 12 South African dancers with 19 Geneva Ballet company members.
The project, motivated by the importance of artistic encounters and the transmission and production of knowledge that takes place in the studio between dance makers, will be conducted in partnership with, and at, the Soweto Theatre, the Dance Space in Newtown, the Hillbrow Theatre Studio, the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative at University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture, and the Wits Theatre. Five short pieces will be created – each choreographer will work with a group of 5 to 7 dancers for the week at the various studios from 10:00 to 18:00. By the end of the week the five different works, each around 12 minutes in duration will reflect their encounters, processes and creations.
The culmination of this collaboration will be showcased at the Soweto and Wits Theatres – two performances at Soweto Theatre, June 13 at 14:00 and 18:00 and at Wits Theatre on June 14 at 14:00 and 18:00.
HIGH FIVE seeks to enrich opportunities for artistic exchange through multi-cultural and choreographic dialogue; ensure a space where dance makers are able to explore a multitude of choreographic vocabularies and enhance their own personal vocabulary; provide a place where the dancers’ inherent physical intelligence can freely navigate between innovation and traditions. HIGH FIVE will encourage outreach and audience development initiatives. The project is enabling layered collaborations and partnerships between independent Gauteng-based dance organisations, municipal, national and international businesses and cultural institutions.
The HIGH FIVE – Choreographic Encounters project has been made possible with the support of Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, the Swiss Arts Council; the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa; the French Institute of South Africa and Total (South Africa).
HIGH FIVE: Tickets: R50.
Soweto Theatre: June 13 at 14:00 & 18:00 (Tel: 0861 670 670) – www.sowetotheatre.com Wits Theatre: June 14 at 14:00 & 18:00 – www.webtickets.co.za
Biographies of HIGH FIVE choreographers
Gregory Maqoma is the founder and executive director of Vuyani Dance Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained both in South Africa and Belgium. As a choreographer, teacher, dancer, consultant and director, Maqoma has taught and presented work in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Mexico, Finland, Burkina Faso, Austria, Nigeria, France, USA and South Africa. He has won several awards and nominations in South Africa including FNB Dance Umbrella Choreographer of the Year, Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year, Daimler Chrysler Choreography Award Finalist and the Gauteng MEC Award. Maqoma served as Associate Artistic Director for Moving into Dance and as Artistic Director of The Afro Vibes Festival in the Netherlands. He recently collaborated with Faustin Linyekula Ngoyi (Congo), Akram Khan (UK) and Vincent Mantsoe (SA) on the last part of the Beautiful Trilogy, Beautiful Me. For the HIGH FIVE project Gregory Maqoma will be assisted by Luyanda Sidiya (Vuyani Dance Theatre artistic director, 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance).
Nathanaël Marie, originally from Cannes (France) is a dancer and choreographer and a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève (Geneva Ballet) since 2009. He studied martial arts, classical ballet and contemporary dance in France and Switzerland. Professionally Marie has worked with the Mannheim Theatre in Germany, the Blanca Li Dance Company in Paris, the Ballet d’Europe and the Ballet National de Marseille before joining the Geneva Ballet. Marie created and directed his company cie deuxième vague from 2004-2008, which integrated street dancers to share the stage with contemporary ballet dancers (Made in Cannes Festival, Festival Printemps de la Danse in Marseille). Between 2009 and 2014, while maintaining the intense schedule with the Geneva Ballet, Marie created work for many French companies: Ballet Nice Méditerranée, for French tenor Roberto Alagna’s tour in France, and for l’Ecole Supérieure de Danse in Cannes. He choreographed Reflex, a solo piece for Sarawanee Tanatanit, at the Thailand Cultural Center. Marie also composes music for string instruments and collaborates with orchestra directors (Dome Marseille, Concert events with Ballet d’Europe).
Mamela Nyamza is a multiple award-winning performance artist, dancer, choreographer, teacher, development activist and motivational speaker. She received the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. Nyamza performs her autobiographical work nationally (National Arts Festival, Dance Umbrella, Infecting the City) and internationally (Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Senegal, Singapore). Hatch created in 2008, Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo (The Meal) in 2012, and Wena Mamela in 2014, are works that continue to tour regularly. Nyamza collaborated with the UK-based Mojisola Adebayo, for I Stand Corrected. Nyamza has initiated many community outreach projects that serve to spread the positive influence of dance to communities within South Africa. One example is the University of Stellenbosch’s Project Move 1524, whose mission is to educate through dance movement therapy. Nyamza has just been elected representative for the Western Cape to the National Advisory Committee for Dance.
PJ Sabbagha is founding member and Artistic Director of The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (1995) and the Annual When Life Happens: HIV and AIDS Arts & Culture (2002-2007). Sabbagha was the recipient of the 2005 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance and the 2006 FNB Dance Umbrella award for Best Choreography for his work Still Here. He has received extensive nominations for the FNB Vita, the FNB Dance Umbrella and the Daimler Chrysler awards. He was voted top South African Artist and in the top 10 of The Star Tonight’s annual top 100 South Africans. In 2007 Sabbagha travelled across the USA as a guest of the US State Department as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program investigating HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases. His choreographic work has toured Russia, Mexico, Holland, Tanzania, Mali, Mozambique, France, Reunion Islands and Taiwan. He works with urban and rural youth-focused programmes dedicated to empowering young people through dance.
Fana Tshabalala began his career in dance by engaging in South African community groups, such as the Vuku Zenzele Cultural Group, Sonqoba Cultural Group, Pheelo Dance Company, Motswako Performing Artists and Vuka Dance Company. Following several residencies in France at the Centre National de la Danse (CND), performances at the Avignon Festival and further collaborations with artists in Nancy, Marseille and Dunkerque, Tshabalala joined French choreographer Michel Kelemenis in his Marseille’s dance house KLAP. This lead to the creation and premiere of his solo Man. Still in France, Tshabalala facilitated workshops for different schools and artists. In South Africa, he performed at the Francophonie Festival organised by the French Institute and participated in their International Choreographic Workshop in Johannesburg. His work has been performed at the National Arts Festival Grahamstown, in several editions of Dance Umbrella and Jomba! (South Africa). In 2012, Tshabalala joined The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC). He was awarded the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance for his piece INDUMBA.