Dance Umbrella 2015
Dance Umbrella 2015 was the 27th edition of the festival that offers a free platform for new contemporary choreography and dance from both local and international artists.
Dance Umbrella 2015 opened on Thursday, February 26 and ran until March 15, 2015.
In the 17 day long celebration of contemporary dance, 16 commissioned works were presented, plus a new platform Street Beat where 12 youth groups were invited to present Hip Hop, Pantsula and street dance work. There was also a special weekend programme of student and young choreographers work. Two installation programmes were presented at the Museum of African Design (MOAD) in Maboneng and one in the Newtown Precinct.
The 2015 Dance Umbrella festival opened at the Dance Factory with the premiere of a work created by the Germany-based Argentinian choreographer, Constanza Macras called On Fire. The work was created through a series of residencies held in both Germany and South Africa in 2014 and the cast included South African and international dancers. On Fire looked at post-colonial post-Apartheid power struggles.
The second programme, presented at GoetheonMain on February 28 and March 1, was What the Hell Happened to this Place?? by Thabiso Pule. This work,funded by Goethe Institut Johannesburg, looked at how the environment has been the victim of distruction on all levels.
Also presented in the opening weekend, was the premiere of Jay Pather’s site specific piece rite, in the MOAD at the Maboneng Precinct on February 28 and March 1 at 19:00. Playing to capacity houses rite was a re-imagining of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) with a focus on classical and contemporary African dance, images, ritual and video.
On Sunday, March 1 the first edition of Street Beat featured Hip Hop, Pantsula and Street Dance. Facilitated by Matthews Manamela 12 groups from Gauteng were selected through an
audition and workshop process. Street Beat was very well attended and good feedback was received. There was great interest from the media for this programme.
The first week of Dance Umbrella 2015 opened on March 3 and 4 with a Double Bill programme:
Fight, flight, feathers, f***ers, a collaboration between British-born choreographer Rachel Erdos and Moving into Dance company member Sunnyboy Motau, explored the politics and physicality of masculinity. The second work on the programme was by Cape Town based Figure of Eight Dance Company (FO8). The Architecture of Tears choreographed by Ananda Fuchs was a beautifully performed work that reflected on attraction beyond gender and social correctness.
Cape Town-based choreographer Themba Mbuli presented Ashed with the UnMute Dance Company. The work looked at South Africa as a nation and the evolution that it has gone through politically, socially and economically. This work had disabled dancers in the cast.
Mamela Nyamza premiered Wena Mamela in the Dance Factory on March 5 and 6 at 19:00. Wena Mamela was created through a series of residencies held in Senegal, Germany and South Africa. Funded by the Institut Francais (France), Steptext and Africtions (Germany) and commissioned by Dance Umbrella, Wena Mamela was an eccentric solo that reflected on her personal history as a black South African woman and dance artist.
On Seeing Red by Gavin Krastin was a performance art work that looked at the global climate and highlighted how power has rapidly developed wars, corrupt governments bio-medical disasters and general chaos internationally. It was presented at the Barney Simon Theatre on March 5 and 6.
The weekend of March 7 and 8 at the Wits Theatre featured young choreographers and student chorographers in two programmes.
The Young Choreographers platform showed outcomes from the Dance XChange programme funded by Rand Merchant Bank and the National Arts Council respectively. The Student programme included students from Tshwane University and Oakfields College.
Portrait of Myself as my Father by New York-based Zimbabwean choreographer Nora Chipaumire and performed by Tumbuka Dance Company from Harare, was an interesting interrogation of the “Zimbabwean self” through dance, movement and space focusing on the masculine presence.
The second week of Dance Umbrella 2015 opened with a double bill programme at the John Kani Theatre on March 10 and 11. 5 Hats by Thoko Sidiya was inspired by the different roles and responsibility expected from women in their daily lives. Kitty Phetla from Joburg Ballet created The After Effect a work that looked inside one’s thoughts and self confidence, tapping into our imperfect souls.
Simunye: we are one choreographed by Sello Pesa was presented at the Newtown Precinct on March 12 and 13 at 18:30. This work examined the “Rainbow Nation” and what it means to be a South African and who is actually a South African.
Chthonia by Tossie van Tonder aka Nobonke was presented in the John Kani Theatre on March 12 and 13 at 20:00. This work reflected on her 32 years as a choreographer as well as expressing the power of the ageing female dancer.
Fremde Tänze by Nelisiwe Xaba was a work created in residency in Germany at the Julius-Hans-Spiegel-Zentrum in Freiburg. Presented at the Dance Factory on March 13 and 14 at 20:15 this work was an investigation of the German and West-European Modern Dance and its exoticisms. This was also supported by the Goethe Institut Johannesburg
Ngizwise by Sonia Radebe and Canadian choreographer Jennifer Dallas was performed by Moving into Dance Mophatong at the John Kani Theatre on March 14 and 15. This was a thought-provoking dance work that reflected on intimate stories of South Africa under Apartheid woven from the voices of the “born free generation”.
The final programme was Negotiating Spaces which took place at the MOAD in the Maboneng Precinct on Sunday, March 15 from 19:00. Seven choreographers were selected to create works not longer than 15 minutes in various spaces within the MOAD. People could walk from the one to the other and it proved popular and interesting. The choreographers selected included Thapelo Kotlolo, Leigh Nudelman, Kieron Gina, Yolandi Olckers, Thuso Lobeko, Kristin Wilson and Rob Mills and Chuma Sopotlela. It was presented in collaboration with Sibikwa Art Centre.
Also included in Dance Umbrella 2015 was the following:
· A series of Master Classes took place at the Hillbrow Theatre and the Dance Space. The teacher was Alfred Hinkel from the Garage Dance Theatre in Okiep, Northern Cape. His focus was dance for the advanced performer. He also included one workshop for beginners.
A three-day Dance Writers Workshop was facilitated by Mary Corrigall and held at the Dance Space on February 13, 14. 20 21 and March 2. The workshop
was funded by the Goethe-Institut Johannesburg. The reviews and interviews written by the participants were featured in various newspapers such as the Sunday Independent and The Star and online. The writers included Same Mdluli, Layla Leiman and Stefanie Jansen. Below is the report
Dance Umbrella Writer’s Workshop Report 2015 by Mary Corrigall
Participants: Same Mdluli, Layla Leiman, Stephanie Jason (the three ‘sponsored’ writers) Adrienne Sichel, an established writer, Athi-Mongezeleli Joja, a young art critic and academic, Zimasa Mpemnyama, a journalism student at Wits, Tammy Ballantyne, an established dance writer, Nondumiso Msimanga, a previous participant who is slowly gaining a reputation as a writer and Sonia Radebe, a choreographer and dancer, who is keen to understand how writers approach dance and how to relate to the media
Facilitator: Mary Corrigall
February Friday 13th 2 – 5pm – Introduction: the politics of choreographing difference and gender-based cultural critique. Participants introduced themselves to each other before we embarked on a conversation about the topic and how it related to dance and the history of contemporary dance in SA. Participants were given texts to take home and read.
Saturday 14th – 10am – 1pm Tradition and Patriarchy: A study of Nelisiwe Xaba’s Uncles and Angels – followed by a discussion with the artist/choreographer/dancer
Friday 20th – 2 – 5pm Muscling in: Rewriting Male identity and the male body in contemporary dance – a screening of Thabiso Pule’s Penis Politics followed by a discussion with the choreographer, dancer
Saturday 21st – 10am to 1pm Dress for success: Costume, gender and contemporary dance a discussion with Sonia Radebe, Ayana Jackson, the American visual artist, and with Argentinean-Berlin based choreographer Constanza Macras
March 3nd – 2-5pm – Coming Clean: Writing and the Identity. When does a writer’s identity interfere, distract, and enhance their critique? An open discussion about the difficulties of writing about dance, coping with negative feedback and relationships with artists. Developing an online profile and persona.
Attendance: It varied with each discussion but was generally well attended.
Overall impression: the gender topic was quite a loaded one and it often lead into discussions about race, which was interesting and predictable given how discourses on gender are inevitably tied to race. However, because it was not a ‘neutral’ topic at times I sensed the participants were reluctant to speak, or felt uncomfortable. In a workshop context the quality and success depends on the willingness of the participants to engage and how they do so. Some sessions were more enjoyable and interesting than others.
Outcome: All of the participants who were not familiar with contemporary dance, were interested in the form by the conclusion – they were able to see how the visual arts and other art forms are connected to dance, thematically and how this could provide them with an entry point into discussing an art form that they are unfamiliar with. The workshop made them aware of what is taking place in contemporary dance and its history, and how important it is to be in touch with all art forms and how they each contribute towards an understanding of our cultural landscape.
Textual Outputs: The three ‘sponsored’ writers, Mdluli, Leiman and Jason all published articles in print and online. Mdluli and Leiman published reviews and articles in The Tonight a national insert appearing in The Star, Pretoria News, Cape Argus, Cape Times and The Sunday Independent. Some of these were republished in the Dance Umbrella Gazette. Leiman additional posted two articles on the Between 10 to 5: Creative Showcase website. Jason, who works fulltime at the Mail and Guardian, created articles for the Dance Umbrella Gazette and the online platform for the publication she works for. Msimanga and Ballantyne also produced articles on the DU during and after the festival.
Assessment: Leiman was the most prolific and the feedback about her writing was very positive from the editor of The Tonight. I expect she may continue producing articles for the Independent group and others. She also introduced dance to a younger reader through the Between 10 to 5 platform. She fell in love with dance and is looking forward to reporting on it during the National Arts Festival. Both Leiman and Jason struggled with writing reviews – they failed to grasp its significance and what should and should not be included. Perhaps a more instructional session could be added to the Workshop to help the young and inexperienced writers, though Leiman suggested she felt that she learnt the most through the writing.
The Gazette: I edited 3 issues of four pages each. Putting each issue together and editing each story and overseeing its production and checking the proofs was very demanding work. I was however, happy with the overall process – it ran smoothly. It would have been better to have had a budget to commission writing from established writers to supplement the work of the inexperienced ones, whose copy wasn’t always of a high standard but I was forced to run it because there was nothing else. Some established writers did submit articles however, so at least for one or two of the issues there was a happy mix. The gazette proved a good platform for the writing and between feeding it copy and the other media outlets it would be better to have more writers, or some steady prolific ones helping to supply both. The demand for copy was bigger than the supply! It was a pity that the social media aspect to support the gazette didn’t manifest. The content from the gazette really needs an online platform so that everyone can access it. Displaying the gazette at the entrance to theatres was a good idea; it drew people’s attention to the content and the gazette itself. It would have been nice for the gazette to be available elsewhere and probably in advance of the DU as a promotional device. It could also be sold for a nominal amount in order to be more sustainable, or adverts from galleries or theatres could be included too.
- Face to Face discussions, hosted by Nondumiso Msimanga, Mary Corrigall and Adrienne Sichel took place after selected performances. The focus here was to give the audiences a clearer idea of what the choreographers were doing with their work. People interviewed included Themba Mbuli, Tossie van Tonder and Nelisiwe Xaba
- Excavating the Personal: Choreographing the Archive: a discussion facilitated by The Ar(t)chive, at Wits School of Arts that focused on how dance creates their own archive
Press clips collected for Dance Umbrella 2015 are valued at over R7 million.
Dance Umbrella 2015 featured 17 programmes with a total of 45 works.
The festival was fairly well attended. There was a focus of attracting young scholars, students and dance trainees, who were offered special discount prices.
- Production costs: The main funding was received from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. Other funding received was from the Goethe Institut, French Institut, National Arts Council and Rand Merchant Bank. Other funders were mainly related to the works presented.
- Marketing: We produced a festival brochure, which was distributed to theatres, the media, dance studios, foreign embassies/ consulates, shopping centres and dance interest mailing lists. We did extensive internet advertising and bulk e-mails to our mailing list and schools
- Publicity: There was a huge interest and support from both print media and television. Several interviews and articles about Dance Umbrella and/or selected choreographers as seen in the press cuttings and publicity report-back. The festival was featured in Classic Feel magazine as well as listed in various national magazines in their events columns. Radio and television coverage was also extensive.
- Face to Face conversations hosted by Mary Corrigall, Nondumiso Msimanga and Adrienne Sichel. Selected choreographers were interviewed after their performances to audience who was interested in getting more info re the work. This included Themba Mbuli, Gavin Krastin, Tossie van Tonder and Nelisiwe Xaba
All photographs by John Hogg