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Diverse dance at the National Arts Festival

Published on 2 May 2013

Geographical and cultural roots explored in the National Arts Festival Grahamstown’s 2013 Dance offering.

Choreographer, teacher and dancer, Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance Fana Tshabalala’s engagement with cleansing ceremonies led him to explore the possibilities in which rites of passage can create new beginnings and purify minds and bodies from the negativities that haunt us. His new work titled Indumba – a hut used as a place for cleansing rituals in most African countries – aims to create a space within which bodies will follow the inner voice that is constantly guiding and feeding them on what to do; despite often choosing not to listen and ending up with regrets. In this space there’s no right or wrong but every moment is appreciated for what it is and what it can be…


The Johannesburg Youth Ballet (JYB) flaunts a rich 37 year history, which includes the patronage of Dame Margot Fonteyn, and giving young dancers from all socio-economic backgrounds an opportunity to work and perform in a professionally run company. Their debut on the Main stage of the National Arts Festival tells the age-old tale of siblings Hansel and Gretel’s survival against terrible odds, and is choreographed by Mark Hawkins to a moving original score by Nik Sakellarides and features Nigel Hannah in a guest role..

Gregory Maqoma’screation Exit/Exist is an embodiment of a traditional, historic and heroic Xhosa story of Chief Maqoma – a story that has seen a family torn apart and a new generation (in himself) making peace with it and finding the relevance in this piece of history in the now. As inspiration for this piece, Maqoma looks to his ancestral past: Chief Maqoma, a 19th century warrior who fought to maintain Xhosa cultural traditions of the Eastern Cape in the face of colonial dispossession. Through his signature integration of traditional and contemporary dance vocabulary, Maqoma invites audiences to reflect on who we are, where we come from, and how all of these facets, past and present, inform our personal a nd collective identities today.

In enhancing this work of art, Maqoma sought the expertise of James Ngcobo, Simphiwe Dana, Kentse Mpahlwa, Mileta Postic, Oliver Hauser, Shanell Winlock and Sibulele Ngcilitshana. Maqoma is joined on stage by four exceptional singers and world-fusion guitarist Giuliano Modarelli, performing a lush score by Simphiwe Dana. As supporting characters in the narrative, the entire cast is interwoven into Maqoma’s vibrantly kinetic world, creating rich visual scenes which punctuate his abstract exploration of race and political power, cultural tradition and personal legacy.

Exit/Exist was co-produced by the KVS (Belgium), Theatre de la Ville (France) and Dance Umbrella (SA) and was presented in Belgium in December 2011. After its premiere in Belgium in 2011, this piece was presented at the 2012 Dance Umbrella to full houses and great acclaim, and subsequently on a European tour. It is fitting that it now be told in the heart of the Eastern Cape from where the story originates and resonates.

Inspired by a photographic exhibition mounted by the Steve Biko Foundation, Jazzart Dance Theatre attempts to translate Biko’s Quest – For a True Humanity from one art form (photography) to another (dance and performance), in a production that re-visits the contemporary relevance of Steve Biko and his quest for a true humanity. Directed by Mandla Mbothwe, with choreography by Jacqueline Manyaapelo, Ina Wichterich-Mogane and Mzokuthula Gasa; an interpretation of Biko’s vision is interrogated to explore how far South African society has progressed in becoming a nation with a more human face.

Rhythms of the Eastern Cape, produced by the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture, once again draws from the various districts of the province to present a programme that reflects the provincial government’s commitment to act as a custodian of preserving and promoting indigenous knowledge systems and indigenous culture.

A dance-theatre production that crafts the experience of the audience member through the interaction of live music and dance , Run! is presented on the Arena programme, and features an outstanding cast of talented and diverse women including acclaimed creator-performer Jori Snell, and is directed by award-winning choreographer-director Nicola Elliott. Combining unusual dance language and crafted performer presence, Elliott interrogates the traditional notion of dance, exploring the athleticism of the female dancing body as an expression of will, instinct and vulnerability.

The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, N

ational Arts Council, City Press and M Net.