Dance Umbrella 2017 – Commissioned Works


The 29th edition of the annual Dance Umbrella festival at the Wits Theatre Complex, Braamfontein from February 23 to March 5 will feature 13 commissioned works.

Tickets for Dance Umbrella 2017 range from R20 to R120. Book at Computicket – 083 915 8000 or or call 011 492 2033 to reserve tickets.

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Nhlanhla Mahlangu’s The Workers CHANT

Workers Chant photo by Evans Mathibe
Workers Chant photo by Evans Mathibe

at the Workers Museum, Newtown Johannesburg on February 23 and 24 at 19:00 opens the festival. The Workers CHANT celebrates those unsung heroes who built the city of Johannesburg with their bare hands and reflects on the black migrant workers who lived in compounds. These were the men who left their families behind in the hope of finding a better life in Johannesburg and experienced atrocities and the de-humanisation of people. The Workers CHANT was inspired, researched and initially presented after a residency programme granted by the Dance Space/Dance Forum in 2015/16.

Corps photo by Denis Rion
Corps photo by Denis Rion

Moeketsi Koena and Gaby Saranouffi, in association with Denis Rion, present Corps at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on February 24 and 25 at 19:00. Corps explores the ancestral history of South Africa, Madagascar and France. It is a work that will use three dimensional figures on fine fibre screens and create a relationship between the performers and audience, becoming part of the past and the future. Production: Inzalo Dance and Theatre Company (South Africa), Vahinala Dance (Madagascar). Co-Production: Centre Chorégraphique National de Nantes (France), I’TRÔTRA International Dance Festival (Madagascar) Support & Partnerships: Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS).

DeApartHate photo by Oscar ORyan
DeApartHate photo by Oscar ORyan

De-Apart-Hate by Mamela Nyamza at the Wits Amphitheatre on February 24 and 25 at 21:00 is a discourse that starts with the struggles of South Africa as a nation and that tries to make people understand humanity without dwelling on race and ideology. The work reflects on religion, patriarchal oppression, sexuality and sin. This is a confrontational work that will make audiences think. It has an age restriction – not for persons under 18. De-Apart-Hate was created in Residency at the University of Maryland at The Clarice Performing Arts Centre, Washington USA.

South African-born choreographer Rudi van der Merwe will present an installation work called Trophée on February 25 and 26 at 15:00. Trophée is an outdoor performance with a strong affinity to visual and land art. Three performers in sumptuous baroque dresses conquer a field like an invading army, adopting postures of trophy wives, hunted animals and ghosts from bygone wars. Their forward progress is punctuated by a series of apparitions: an advancing tree, a giant, an elephant. The elephant, as well as the tree are literary and historical references to the theme of invasion:

Space - Jazzart
Space – Jazzart

the Wolf Co-Production: Festival Antigel (Geneva) Support: Republic and State of Geneva and Touring support: Pro Helvetia Johannesburg.

On Tuesday, February 28 and Wednesday, March 1 at the Wits Theatre at 19:00 two choreographers from Moving into Dance Mophatong, Oscar Buthelezi and Sonny Boy Motau, will present new works: Stuck Souls by Oscar Buthelezi reflects on the many lost souls that are looking to be found and the many that won’t be found as they are lost in waste. They don’t know how long they will have to wait – are their souls lost or are they gone forever…and I am NoT… by Sunnyboy Motau, speaks to self-discovery and venturing into new and unknown spaces within ourselves.


Also on February 28 and March 1, at the Wits Downstairs Theatre at 20:00, Songezo Mcilizeli will premiere Perspective. Perspective generates imagery framed within socio-political themes; it commits to exploring diverse culture and evolution and it investigates everyday life scenarios, constantly re-creating the imagery via the body.

The third programme on the same evenings is Dawn by Katlehong-based choreographer Lucky Kele at the Wits Amphitheatre at 21:00. Dawn explores the relationship between cultures and how we observe the traditional practices in moving time and space. It reflects a human-centred approach to development based on mutual respect and dialogue among cultures.

Fana Tshabalala collaborates with Constanza Macras/Dorky Park from Berlin, Germany with In The Heart of the Country at the Wits Amphitheatre on Thursday and Friday, March 2 and 3 at 19:00. A physical exploration inspired by the “impossible dialogue” between blacks and whites, in JM Coetzee’s literature and Njabulo Ndebele’s book, Rediscovery of the Ordinary. In The Heart of the Country is part of a bigger project called Space Tales : Super Local Stories and is a co-production between Constanza Macras/Dorky Park and Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative at Ebhudwleni Arts Centre, Mpumalanga South Africa. It is funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Goethe Institut South Africa and Dance Umbrella.

Lady Lady Lady photo by Val Adamson
Lady Lady Lady photo by Val Adamson

Lady, Lady by Gaby Saranouffi, Desiré Davids and Edna Jaime at the Wits Theatre, Thursday March 2 and Friday March 3 at 20:00, presents an experience into a female universe, built up by the personal journeys of three female artists from different countries within the southern Africa region (South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar). They share, search, explore and exchange their realities in order to give voice to various commonalities, challenges and images. Production by Centre Cultural Franco- Mozambican – CCFM (Maputo); VAHINALA Dance Company (Madagascar); Co- production: I’TRÔTRA International Dance Festival (Madagascar); The Floating Outfit Project South Africa – supported by the National Arts Council; Support and partnerships: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia; Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, Institut Francais and Institute Francis Afrique du Sud.

Also on March 2 and 3, at The Nunnery at 21:00 is Down to Earth by Kieron Jina and Marc Philipp Gabriel. This dance duet deals with constructed identities that are shaped by more and more complex constellations, than by merely geographical origins and social upbringing. Using the body as a projection canvas, the work works with dance, music and cultural artefacts. Down to Earth is a co-production with Tanzfabrik Berlin (Germany) and University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture (Johannesburg), supported by the International Co-Production Fund of Goethe Institute (Germany) and Dance Umbrella Festival (Johannesburg).

Detritus for One photo by Niamh Walsh-Vorster
Detritus for One photo by Niamh Walsh-Vorster

Detritus for One by Alan Parker, a physical theatre solo work with design by Gavin Krastin, is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4 at 18:00. The work explores the notion of “performing the archive” and the potential ways in which performance can be used to archive past dance works for an audience in the present. Detritus for One draws together dance, spoken word, puppetry and visual image. It is funded by the National Arts Council and Dance Umbrella 2017.

When they Leave - Kirvan Fortuin photo by Joshua Walter
When they Leave – Kirvan Fortuin photo by Joshua Walter

Cape Town choreographer Kirvan Fortuin, who has also worked in the Netherlands, will present When they Leave, a triple bill, at The Wits Theatre on Saturday, March 4 at 19:00 and Sunday, March 5 at 14:30. When they Leave, which is technical, high-pitched and creative in unusual ways, also explores the narrative of race in the South African context, specifically between white and coloured people and through a series of duets, the audience will be taken on an entertaining and interactive journey through the world of the performers into a space of thought.

Dance Umbrella 2017 will host a series of Master Classes between February 27 and March 4 at the Hillbrow Theatre Dance Studio. The classes will be facilitated by selected choreographers. To book a place call Lethabo at 011 492 2033.

Dance Umbrella 2017 is funded by the Mzansi Golden Economy fund, Department of Arts and Culture; the Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council. Other partners include the French Institut South Africa; Goethe Institut Johannesburg; Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia; Splitbeam; Outreach Foundation; Wits Theatre and Creative Feel Magazine.

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