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Dance Umbrella kicks up its heels Print E-mail

The FNB Dance Umbrella is in its 20th year, once again bringing dance to a wider audience at a variety of venues across Johannesburg.

South Africa's Nelisiwe Xaba and Mali's Kettry Noel work together on Correspondences
South Africa's Nelisiwe Xaba and Mali's Kettry Noel work together on Correspondences

PREPARATIONS are in full swing for the 20th annual FNB Dance Umbrella, to be held at several venues across Joburg from 16 February to 15 March.

Kicking off at the University of the Witwatersrand theatre complex, in Jorissen Street in Braamfontein, the month-long festival of dance begins with Stepping Stones 1, 2 and 3 on 16, 17 and 24 February. The three programmes feature young choreographers and community groups.

The main festival opens at Newtown's Dance Factory on 22 and 23 February at 7pm, with a collaboration between German choreographer Gerda König, German dance company DIN A 13 tanzcompany and Cape Town's Remix Dance Company. The Dance Factory is at 10 Goch Street in Newtown.

The group has created a new work exploring the theme of skin colour in the context of South African cultural history. The dancers have included what they experienced during apartheid.

Also happening at the Dance Factory is New Moves 1 on 26 and 27 February at 7.30pm. The programme features artists who participated in the Dance Umbrella's residency programme over the past two years.

Robyn Orlin's Dress to Kill/ Killed to Dress is at the Market Theatre on 22 and 23 February at 9pm. It explores the practice of swenking. The term derives from the English word "swank" which means "to show off or swagger" or "elegance and style, especially of a showy kind".

It is a tribute to Zulu construction workers and miners, who would hold fashion shows to see who was the best dressed. The Market Theatre is at 56 Margaret Mcingana Street in Newtown.

Via Katlehong teams up with Orlin and France's Christian Rizzo in Imbizo e Mazweni, or a "meeting out of the country". The collaborative work looks at pantsula and what it means today. It is performed at the Market Theatre on 26 and 27 March at 7pm.

Orlin explains that pantsula is "a name that goes back to the 1970s, when a pantsula was supposed to be the one who dressed elegantly yet not too formally but still made a fashion statement. It is also a popular dance form called 'pantsula jive'. It became a very popular dance form during the 1980s among young men in the townships.

"It includes not only dance as a way of expressing oneself, but it is a way of life and impacts on where one lives. It has been described as a flat-footed African tap-and-glide style of dance.

"The Zulu word pantsula can be translated to mean to waddle like a duck or alternatively to walk with protruded buttocks, a characteristic of this dance form."

Georgina Thomson, the festival's director, says: "In celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, we will have performances … at the Market Theatre for the first time and we will also have collaborated performances between local and international dancers."

She adds that everyone who has been part of the Dance Umbrella over the past 20 years has been invited to celebrate the special anniversary.

The Newtown Cultural Centre, at 1 President Street, hosts France's Dominique Bolvin on 23 and 24 February at 2pm with his work, Transports Exceptionnels. The dance is a love story between a dancer and a mechanical digger and is an interpretation of the classic pas de deux, a dance for two dancers.

Montage Video Festival, in partnership with FNB Dance Umbrella 2008, is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre, on the corner of Jorissen and Station streets in Braamfontein; it is on 23 and 24 February from 10am. Montage has set up many partnerships with international video dance festivals and is part of a global video dance network.

Back, choreographed by PJ Sabbagha and performed with Dada Masilo, is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on 1 March at 7pm and 2 March at 2pm. It is a story about trying to move forward through time and space, the door to our past and the door to our future each slightly ajar, eyes fixed firmly one on each door.

The second New Moves programme is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on 1 March at 8pm and 2 March at 3pm. The theatre again features dance on 4 and 5 March, when Julia Raynham presents 21st Century Animal at 7pm. The performance combines music, dance, theatre and digital cinema.

Then, at 8.45pm, it is the turn of Ballet Theatre Afrikan, Jayesperi Moopen and Gregory Maqoma. The first performance is Reflections, choreographed by Jayesperi Moopen; the second is Ketima, choreographed by Gregory Maqoma. Ketima explores humanity's speed in relation to the tranquility of nature.

According to Maqoma, Ketima "examines phases of development from crawling through toddling to the time when human thoughts, feelings and actions get hooked to the mainstream of life".

Ballet Theatre Afrikan performs the third piece of the evening.

The action moves to the University of Johannesburg's Arts Centre on 6 and 7 March. The centre is at the corner of Kingsway and University roads in Auckland Park. It hosts Cargo, a collaboration between Jazzart Dance Theatre and Magnet Theatre.

Cargo uses performance to look at slavery at the Cape and to bring it to the attention of a wider audience, while linking the past to the present.

South Africa's Nelisiwe Xaba and Mali's Kettry Noel work together on Correspondences, at the Dance Factory on 7 and 8 March at 7pm. It is the story of two women who meet in the flesh after corresponding with one another. They meet under a lamppost in a modern city, in front of a disco, at the beach and in a room.

Moving Into Dance Mophatong celebrates its 30th birthday during the FNB Dance Umbrella with Hanano - Blessing of the Earth. The dance features most of the original cast, including the choreographer, Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe. It was first performed at the Dance Umbrella in 1995.

The second work in the programme is Ek Sé Hola which looks at perceived ideas of the youth in South Africa. Gregory Maqoma choreographs, blending kwaito with contemporary dance. These shows take place at the Wits Theatre on 7 and 8 March at 8pm.

Sello Pesa's Totems is a highlight of the festival's last week. It explores the different totems used in South African cultures and traditions, focusing on the ways that clans do things and the animals that they honour, to find similarities within the diversity of South Africa.

The aim is to express the common meeting points that bind people. Totems is at the Wits Theatre on 11 and 12 March at 7pm.

Remix Dance Company collaborates with Santu Mofokeng on Dancing with Shadows, which was inspired by a series of Mofokeng's photographs called Moving in Shadows. The piece aims to find synergy between visual arts and dance.

It takes place at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Klein Street in Joubert Park on 12 and 13 March at 6.30pm.

Next up, at the Dance Factory, is Weeleni by Salia ni Seydou from Burkina Faso. This work is a trio of solos - Gestes by Salia Sanou; Waati, choreographed by Ousseni Sako; and Feminininmasculin, choreographed by Seydou Boro.

The works are entwined and question the dancers about their relationships with each other. Weeleni looks at the invisible parts of our lives, those things we try to hide from each other but ultimately share with each other. It is at the Dance Factory on 12 and 13 March at 8pm.

Jay Pather's Body of Evidence takes over the Dance Factory space on 14 and 15 March, with shows at 6.30pm. The dance probes the inexpressibility of pain; pain is certain and clear to the feeler but remains remote and doubtful to the witness.

Flying in the face of such noble attempts to do otherwise as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, Body of Evidence considers the enduring and perpetual containment of memories of violence in our bones. It examines how history forever scars us, how our marrow is indelibly marked with the ravages of torture and violence. It features sound by James Webb and video by Storm Janse van Rensburg.

Ebhofolo by Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe is at the Wits Downstairs Theatre at 7pm on 14 and 15 March. With a number of themes, this creation wrestles with the disappearing decorative arts; the daily movement around the homestead in time and space; the colour lines of paint or natural "dunk" design; and tall, lean, elegant body sculptures.

Mantsoe's work is a commitment to cultural preservation relating to his background, which combines Ndebele, Xhosa, Sotho and Pedi ancestry.

As part of the FNB Dance Umbrella, an exhibition of John Hogg's photographs is at the Afronova Gallery, on the corner of Miriam Makeba and Gwigwi Mrwebi streets in Newtown. It runs from 21 February until 15 March and includes photographs Hogg has taken at the festival over the last 20 years.

FNB Dance Umbrella 2008 ends with a mixed bill of new commissioned works from young artists, including Zoey Lapinsky, known for her piece Anatomy of Loss; Ntsane Mopedi and Mpho Masilela, known for It's Hectic but not Pointless; Sifiso Majola, known for his piece, Wanting; Dada Masilo, who won a Gauteng MEC Contemporary Choreography and Dance award for his piece When I Take off my Skin and Touch the Sky with my Nose, only then can I see Tiny Voices Amuse Themselves; Thabo Rapoo, known for eMandulo; and Ignatius van Heerden, creator of Let me Walk over You so My Feet won't Touch the Ground.

The annual FNB Gala Programme is on Friday, 29 February at 8pm at the University of Johannesburg's Arts Centre, although it is not open to the public. There is a dress rehearsal on 28 February. The programme features works presented over the past 20 years of the FNB Dance Umbrella, including Bloodsport by Susan Abraham, Pride by Neville Campbell, Solve for X by Moeketsi Koena, Southern Comfort by Gregory Maqoma, and Last Dance by Jazzart Dance Theatre.

Tickets for the FNB Dance Umbrella are available at the door or can be booked at Computicket outlets, by telephone on 011 340 8000 or 083 915 8000, or through the Computicket website . Prices range from R50 to R80. Concessions, block bookings and subscription tickets are available.

For further information contact the FNB Dance Umbrella organisers on 011 482 4140 / 5615 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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