Vuyani Leaps into 2017 with Globetrotting Gusto


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Vuyani Dance Theatre is launching into 2017 at full throttle, with three different projects taking place on three continents in the space of a month.

Vuyani Dance Theatre - Signatures. Photo by Debbie Yazbek.
Vuyani Dance Theatre – Signatures. Photo by Debbie Yazbek.

This internationally renowned Johannesburg-based dance company will be travelling to Australia (Perth), India (Bangalore) and Germany (Bremen) this month to work on and perform in a number of exciting trans-continental projects.

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The first of these is Out of Joint, a collaborative project that was initiated by Helge Letonja of Germany’s Steptext Dance Project and Vuyani Executive Creative Director Greg Maqoma.

The acclaimed Steptext choreographer has been spending time at the Vuyani studios working with the company’s dancers during January, while Maqoma has been in Bremen coaching the German dancers.

Last week the Vuyani dancers travelled to Germany, where the South African and German dancers will meet to create a full work over the space of a month. It will premiere in Germany in March before being staged in South Africa in May.

Explains Letonja: “Steptext Dance Project and Theater am Pfalzbau invited Gregory to create and perform the duet Blind for our Africtions — Captured by Dance Festival in 2014. Gregory and I met in Bremen and we were excited to share our artistic visions and take the collaboration to the next level – a creation for the dancers of the two companies.

“Out of Joint was born and we both embarked on an extraordinary method of artistic collaboration: choreographing together – one artistic team, with two artistic languages. Each one of us has been creating in the other one’s country and with their dancers, then responding to the other’s artistic proposition. This will allow a new, third language to come into existence by mixing the two languages,” he explained.

“This form of creation demands skills, courage and trust, and we are very excited about it.”

Vuyani Dance Theatre. Photo by John Hogg
Vuyani Dance Theatre. Photo by John Hogg

A second troupe of Vuyani dancers will be departing for a short stint in Bangalore this week to perform at the Attakkalari India Biennial, regarded as South Asia’s largest and most important international festival for contemporary movement arts. They will be dancing Maqoma’s landmark work Ketima at Bangalore’s Chowdiah Memorial Hall on 4 February.

Ketima is a male quartet that was first presented in 2003, and in 2016 Maqoma revived it using new members of Vuyani Dance Theatre with a double cast of a male quartet and a female quartet. The work captures the essence of childhood, examining the phases of development, from crawling and toddling through to more mature emotions and actions.

Another award-winning Maqoma creation, Exit/Exist, will be performed during the Perth International Arts Festival at the Heath Ledger Theatre on 10, 11 and 12 February.

The winner of a 2013 New York Bessie Award, Maqoma’s potent solo piece has been described as “dance and music in a ritual embrace” and “an offering of transcendent power”. His performance will be complemented by the stirring harmonies and lamentations of the Vuyani Ensemble, accompanied by guitarist Giuliano Modarelli.

This music group consists of vocalists and musicians Anele Ndebele, Siphiwe Nkabinde, Sizwe Nhlapo and Xolisile Bongwana, and was launched in October 2016 to add live music to Vuyani’s productions – but they are also in demand to perform as a standalone ensemble in their own right.

Spanning world music genres from traditional South African songs to Afro-reggae, with West African and Latin influences, the Vuyani Ensemble will also perform at the Albany Entertainment Centre on 14 February, the Denmark Civic Theatre on 15 February and St George’s Cathedral on 16 February – all as part of the Perth festival.

Directed and choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya, Siva is performed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre. Picture credit: Cue.
Directed and choreographed by Luyanda Sidiya, Siva is performed by the Vuyani Dance Theatre. Picture credit: Cue.

Maqoma expressed his excitement about Vuyani’s trio of international endeavours that are taking shape and unfurling this month.

He said: “One of the major pillars of Vuyani’s 2020 strategy is collaborations, and in the first quarter of the year alone we have multiple productions that are taking the company to prestigious festivals in India and Australia, extending our international reach. We are also excited about the Out of Joint project that is bringing Germany’s Steptext and Vuyani to collaborate for the first time.

“These continental conversations are more important than ever in the current challenging geopolitical space – more than ever, we need the arts to trade with the rest of the world because they carry the truth and have the power to influence change.”

He added that some of Vuyani’s trainees will be travelling with the company members, exposing them to international audiences and artists while giving them an opportunity to grow as performers.

Vuyani Dance Theatre is supported by the National Lotteries Commission and the Ketima Tour to India is supported by The Department of Arts & Culture.

Out of Joint is supported by the Nationales Performance Netz (NPN) Coproduction Fund for Dance, which is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag.

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