Dance Umbrella celebrates 30 years


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Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Dance Umbrella 2018, the premier platform of South African contemporary choreography and dance, will run at various theatres and venues in Johannesburg from March 6-18, 2018.

Funded by the National Lotteries Commission, the internationally renowned annual festival will present 18 programmes of new contemporary dance works from both local and international choreographers.

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Dance Umbrella 2018 opens on March 6 and 7 at the UJ Centre for the Arts with two works: Gula Matari by Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe and Mayhem by Gregory Vuyani Maqoma.

Gregory Maqoma. Photo: John Jogg.
Gregory Maqoma. Photo: John Jogg.

Gula Matari, which premiered at Dance Umbrella 1992, promises to be a celebratory opening of the festival. Performed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre, the dancers become like birds that whistle and use their heads to communicate with other birds. Maqoma’s Mayhem reflects on our altered state of mind, our country’s state of confusion and the chaos we are left with. The programme is presented in collaboration with the French-Institut South Africa.

Gerard Bester, who was in the inaugural Dance Umbrella in 1989 collaborates with Alan Parker, who presented his first work at Dance Umbrella 10 years ago, with a new work Sometime’s I have to Lean in… at the Wits Amphitheatre on March 8 and 9 at 19:00. The artists will create a conversation between their two bodies within a common space.

South African-born Moya Michael will premiere a new work Coloured Swans 1: KHOISWAN in collaboration with South African artist Tracey Rose, at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on March 8 and 9 at 20:00.

Vincent Mantsoe. Photo: John Jogg.
Vincent Mantsoe. Photo: John Jogg.

Created at the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre, Mpumalanga, the artists investigate why the world restricts to black and white; what about the shades of grey? There is a wide range of colours reflected by the skins of the global majority. The work is presented in collaboration with the Government of Flanders; BoZar; CoKot and KVS Creations.

Steven Cohen, who first presented a work at Dance Umbrella 20 years ago, will present a new piece that premiered at Montpellier Danse 2017 in France – put your heart under your feet… and walk – a tribute to his late partner Elu, on March 8 and 9 at 21:00 in the Wits Theatre.

Dance Umbrella 2018 is funded by the National Lotteries Commission. Other partners include Creative Feel Magazine; National Arts Council; the French Institut South Africa; Goethe-Institut Johannesburg; Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia; Splitbeam; Drama for Life and Business and Arts South Africa.

Tickets range from R50.00 to R150.00 – book at

An Early Bird Special is available from January 15 – February 15: tickets booked in this period get a 40% discount – call 011 673 0035 to take advantage of this special.

Block bookings of 10 or more offer a 30% discount and school block bookings of 10 or more will get 50% discount. For block booking discounts and programme updates, please call 011 673 0035 or email

For the Dance Umbrella 2018 programme, updates on the Master Classes and Face to Face interviews please visit

Follow Dance Umbrella on: Twitter: @danceumbrellaSA / Facebook: Dance Umbrella Festival Johannesburg / Instagram: Dance_Umbrella_SA

Shaken to the core by the death of Elu, as well as that of his beloved childhood care-giver Nomsa in 2016, Cohen created this work as a message of love to his soul mate; it speaks to anyone who has known immeasurable loss and the necessity to keep moving in the face of petrifying grief. (This work is not open to persons under 18). Presented in partnership with the French Institut South Africa; Montpellier Danse 2017; Fumain TROP; French Institut Novelle-Aquitaine.

Hillbrowfication – this work created by German choreographer’s Constanza Macras and Lizi Estaras will premiere at the Hillbrow Theatre on March 9 at 18:00 and March 10 at 14:30.

Ranging from ages 5 to 22, 21 children and youths from the Hillbrow Theatre Project together with three professional dancers will explore the Hillbrow of the future and challenge and inspire the young to re-imagine their neighbourhood and to look at their perceptions and experiences of xenophobia and violence. This work is a co-production between Constanza Macras and the Hillbrow Theatre Project with Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin, supported by Goethe Institut Johannesburg and is funded by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

The first Double Bill in the festival will be presented at the Dance Factory on March 10 at 18:00 and March 11 at 14:30. Cape Town-based choreographer Louise Coetzer presents IN C – a work that gives a 21st century treatment of contemporary dance contrasting synchronicity and counterpoint. Sharing the programme is Durban-based Musa Hlatshwayo with a work DODA in which the choreographer explores black male identity and issues around modern day and traditional masculinity.

Fana Tshabalala collaborates with Swiss choreographer Vladimir Ippolitov with a work called Men which is inspired by the idea of the “ideal kind of Man” within society. How have the roles and responsibilities changed through the years, leaving “Man in a state of bewilderment? This new work will be presented at Joburg Fringe Theatre on March 10 at 19:30 and March 11 at 14:30. It will be partnered by the annual National School of the Arts Festival of Fame. The work is presented in collaboration with Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council; Embassy of Foreign Artists, Broken Borders and Geneva Dance Events.

On Sunday, March 11 from 10:00, up-and-coming choreographers will present new works on the New Dance programme. Artists from Durban, Cape Town, and other regions will share the Wits Theatre stage and the programme includes young artists from Vuyani Dance Theatre, Moving into Dance Mophatong and the National School of the Arts as well as from other parts of South Africa. Entrance is R50.00.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14 at 18:00 at the Dance Factory, Robyn Orlin will present her internationally acclaimed work, and so you see… our honourable blue sky and ever-enduring sun… can only be consumed slice by slice.

“…slice by slice” features the beautifully fearless Albert Ibokwe Khoza and Thabo Pule, and once again shows that Orlin is not afraid to colonise Mozart’s Requiem – they take us on a journey through the seven deadly sins finding themselves up and close with the norms of the world. Produced by City Theatre and Dance Groups, Festival Montpelier Danse 2016; Festival d’Automne a Paris; Kinneksbond; Centre Culturel Mamer, Luxembourg Centre Dramatique National de Haute-Normandie; la Ferme du Buisson, scene Nationale de Marne-la-Vallee with the support of Arcadi Ile-de-France.

The second Double Bill can be seen at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on March 13 and 14 at 19:15. Sick by Gustin Makgeledise is drawn from researched material regarding human trafficking and prostitution. It captures real-life stories of the innocents- the doers and watchers; where my rights begin and where yours end. Sharing the stage are Phumlani Nyanga and Thabo Kobeli with a new work In-Time which looks at how we work with time within our lives; chained by the circles of life we lose the time that is in-between. In-Time was partnered by the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative and created at the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre, Mpumalanga.

Jayesperi Moopen has created a new work on Cape Town-based The Cape Dance Company, called Elements. While we continue to remain impactful and relevant through our art we draw on the elements like Mother Earth, water, wind, fire and space to inspire movement that only these forces of nature can provide, in its beauty and destruction. Two completely diverse companies, Cape Dance Company and Tribhangi Dance Theatre explore and celebrate the joy of discovery. Elements will be presented at the Wits Theatre on March 13 and 14 at 20:30.

Moving into Dance Mophatong celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018 and it starts the year with a new work Embracing Gravity, which includes Stone Cast Ritual by Sylvia Glasser and a new work from David Gouldie, who will work with the company and students. The programme promises to be a highlight of the Dance Umbrella 2018 on March 15 and 16 at 19:30 at the Wits Theatre.

Sello Pesa brings back a work that premiered at the inaugural Centre for a Less Good Idea Season 1 called Bag Beatings. This will be presented in Wits Downstairs Theatre on March 15 and 16 at 21:00.

On March 17 and 18, PJ Sabbagha premieres a new work called Noah at the Dance Factory on March 16 and 17 at 18:00. Noah is a return to and the final part of Sabbagha’s Noah’s trilogy which started in 1998 with Noah’s Phobia followed by Noah’s Drowning. The final part of the trilogy brings into focus the ever-present realities of environmental degradation and the immediate environment we currently occupy.

Themba Mbuli presents a double bill of two new works: Auth(o)rise which questions how women become authors of their own lives if they are being told how they should live and Memory Box is an autobiographical solo. The programme will be presented at the Wits Downstairs on March 17 at 19:00 and March 18 at 11:30.

Sylvaine Strike collaborates with Owen Lonzar on a new work called Doll which premieres at the Wits Theatre on March 17 at 20:00 and March 18 at 14:30. The two artists explore the life of an online order, ownership, desire, disappointment, objectification and Harvey Weinstein.

The final programme on Dance Umbrella 2018 is Nothing Makes Sense by Thulani Chauke which will be presented in the Wits Amphitheatre on March 17 at 21:00 and March 18 at 13:00. An interrogation of violence with a specific focus on sex, race, gender, sexuality, class, culture and physical ability, it is an investigation on the full spectrum of violence that we are subjected to daily. It is presented in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Project Space, Broken Borders and Unmute Dance Company.

Other highlights at Dance Umbrella 2018 are a series of Master Classes – presented by Vincent Mantsoe and Gregory Maqoma on March 7; Gerard Bester and Alan Parker on March 10; Fana Tshabalala on March 11; Louise Coetzer on March 12 and Musa Hlatshwayo on March 12 – and Face to Face conversations, facilitated in partnership with Drama for Life, which will take place with the same artists after the classes.

To book a place for the Master Classes please call Lethabo at 011 673 0035.


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