Dance enthusiasts can anticipate a diverse array of productions at the National Arts Festival from both the Main and National Lottery Fringe programmes, writes Sarah Roberson
A spectacular production of The Firebird, designed and directed by Janni Younge (previously of the Handspring Puppet Company) and choreographed by Jay Pather, will have its world premiere at the Festival.
Younge’s The Firebird is a re-imagining of the original ballet, and is set to the original Igor Stravinsky score. This production promises to thrill audiences with sensational visuals and performances. The giant puppets include a huge dragon, awe-inspiring to behold as it unfurls its 10-metre wingspan above the dancers below.
Drawing on contemporary and traditional South African dance forms, Pather’s choreography embodies the narrative’s themes of finding free and powerful expression. In the current sociopolitical climate, where South Africans are trying to establish a national identity, Younge’s The Firebird asks important questions about courage and mutual understanding.
The Cape Dance Company appears on the main programme for the first time. They present A Thousand Shepherds, choreographed by Jose Agudo and Enemy Behind the Gates, choreographed by Christopher L Huggins. This double bill will be interspersed by a solo performance by KANNA nominee, Mthuthuzeli November.
“It’s always been a privilege to be able to perform annually at the National Arts Festival and now, being on the Main for the first time this year, in other very good company, is a dream realised and is especially wonderful since this is Ismail Mahomed’s final year as artistic director of the NAF,” said Debbie Turner, artistic director of the Cape Dance Company.
A highlight on the Arena programme is No Fun Ction All Anguage, directed by Jayne Batzofin with original music composed and performed by Eastern Cape local Dave Knowles. This production features a cast of diversely abled performers and looks at how language affects us all in contemporary South African society.
A number of productions will represent the Festival’s home province. We Salute Madiba, presented by the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, will see the Eastern Cape Dance and Music Ensemble pay tribute to the father of our nation. With a colourful presentation of the stories of Nelson Mandela’s Transkei heritage, the Ensemble will commemorate our country’s iconic hero.
On the Fringe, Predicament / Ayeye is presented by the Eastern Cape Dance Company. This is a double bill that deals with the emotions of losing a mother, finding personal peace, and spiritual awakenings.
Two Grahamstown companies have emerged from the Makana Arts Academy project, run by Creative City, a project of the National Arts Festival funded by the European Union, to take centre stage this year on the Fringe. Nomcebisi Moyikwa, who last year won two Standard Bank Ovation Awards that recognise artistic excellence, presents her Intlangano Project’s Home, inspired by Toni Morrison’s novel of the same title; while Uyabona Ke presents two shows: Waterline, directed by Rob Murray, and winner of a 2015 Standard Bank Ovation Award; and their new creation, Falling Off The Horn, about xenophobia in South Africa, directed by Sam Pennington.
Other Fringe dance highlights are ’…feathers…’ by Moving Into Dance Mophatong, a bracing look at the intricacies of masculinity; and My Body, My Life, My Decisions by Rainbow Theatre Company, which brings to light the realities of the LGBTI communities living in South Africa. Underground Dance Theatre’s Pulp is set to scintillate with an intimate Film Noir-styled dance theatre piece.